Clinging to a one-point lead at halftime, Cartersville created enough separation in the second half to earn its 14th win of the season. Coach Donna Enis pointed to her team's man-to-man defense when asked for the difference after halftime.
"Our defense [tonight], we [played] totally out of character. We played man-to-man," said Enis, noting that the Lady Canes favored a similar style of defense in Friday's 78-62 victory over Pickens. "The more we play it, the better we get."
Along with Cartersville's defensive effort, the Lady Canes also got another gem of a performance from lead guard Kaelyn Irby, who followed up her triple-double showing against the Dragons with a near triple-double vs. the Lady Yellow Jackets. Irby finished with 14 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds and five steals.
Even with the good vibes flowing for the home team through three quarters, Cartersville still had to close out a feisty Calhoun team, which trimmed a 10-point deficit to four points -- 52-48.
The Lady Canes extended the lead back out, 57-50, but the Lady Yellow Jackets made it a two-possession game on a Bree Walraven 3-pointer.
Cartersville, however, allowed just one more field goal from Calhoun and held on for a seven-point win.
Enis thought her team forced things toward the end, which allowed the Lady Yellow Jackets back into the ball game. But, she lauded her team's composure in being able to regain control.
"We got up by 10 and then I felt like we came down and forced some shots," she said. "[But] I'm just real proud of how hard we played."
Aside from Irby, other offensive contributors for the Lady Canes included Adrienne Green, 15 points, 10 rebounds, two steals, one assist; Stefanie Will, 13 points, six rebounds, four steals, two assists; Kea Garnigan, eight points, four rebounds, two steals, one assist; Katie O'Connor, six points, seven rebounds; and D'Yasmine Richards, six points, one rebound.
Calhoun's Taylor Palmer scored a game-high 20 points, including 13 in the first half, and Carly Curtis added 11 points for the Lady Yellow Jackets.
In the first half, there were five ties and three lead changes, and neither team led by more than five points. Calhoun held its biggest advantage of the game, going up 6-2 as Palmer scored three consecutive field goals -- including two on lobs from the corner that gave her a free look at the hoop with Green fronting her.
Cartersville scored 12 of the next 17 points to hold a 14-13 edge at the start of the second quarter. Palmer delivered another for the Lady Yellow Jackets as the visitors took what would be their last lead of the night at 15-14.
The Lady Canes rattled off six straight points, the last two coming on Irby's fastbreak layup, to give themselves some breathing room at 20-15. The separation didn't last very long with Macy Walraven hitting from deep to make it a two-point game.
Calhoun tied the game a few more times before the half, but Cartersville maintained its one-point lead going into the locker room -- 31-30.
In the third quarter, the Lady Canes got a rainmaker of a 3 from Garnigan to spark a 7-2 run. The Lady Yellow Jackets kept things close by responding with a 6-0 run to tie the game at 38-all.
Will, who had missed from 3-point land in the first half, then got in on the act for Cartersville, knocking two shots from beyond the arc to stake the Lady Canes to 46-41. The hosts added a field goal from Richards to enter the fourth ahead by seven.
With its schedule stiffening, Enis said Cartersville's play has gotten better at the right time.
"We're starting to play our best basketball," she acknowledged. "I feel like we're upping our game because we're playing better teams. ... Early on I felt like we played some games where we weren't challenged as much as I'd like us to be."
The Lady Canes are being challenged now. Their last three games have been against teams with a combined 60-33 record -- Murray County was the lone team during that stretch with a losing mark. Cartersville has gone 4-1 in those five games, with its only blemish coming at the hands of Region 7B-AAA leader Allatoona.
On Tuesday, the Lady Canes (14-4, 4-1) head to Polk County to face Cedartown. The game is scheduled to tip off at 6 p.m. In the two teams' last meeting, Cartersville won 90-26.