Sometimes a team just has your number.
A day after two Bartow County teams lost to squads they had already defeated twice during the season, the Cass girls fell for a third time to Kell.
It’s hard to beat a team three times — and the Colonels did put a fight during the second half — but the Longhorns controlled proceedings virtually the entire game en route to a 42-36 win Tuesday at Villa Rica.
The result ends Cass’ season in the first round of the Region 7-AAAAA tournament. A victory would have qualified them for state and set up a semifinal matchup with No. 1 seed Villa Rica.
Instead, Kell (12-14) reaps the rewards, while Cass (15-11) heads home having fallen short of its ultimate goal.
"I loved our fight," Colonels coach Burt Jackson said. "... We just couldn't get that basket to tie or take the lead. I think if we would have, the momentum would have swung.
"I felt like we missed a lot of key free throws, too."
The Longhorns claimed both previous meetings in close fashion, including a three-point win in the regular-season finale for both teams Saturday.
Their first-round matchup was already set before that game, with Saturday’s contest only influencing the seeds. Having both finished 8-8 in region play, Kell earned the No. 4 seed while Cass settled for the No. 5 due to the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Given a chance at redemption, the Colonels didn’t grab the bull by the ... well, you know.
The Longhorns controlled things from the opening tip thanks to Ashley Sparrow.
With Cass focused on slowing Kya Williams, Sparrow erupted for 11 first quarter points to give Kell a 13-8 lead entering the second period.
Sparrow, who finished with a game-high 21 points, continued her phenomenal performance with six points in the second quarter.
At halftime, she had 17 of her team’s 25 points. Cass, meanwhile, had just 16 points.
In a lot of respects, though, the Colonels were fortunate to be within single-digits.
Cass, which received 11 points from Chanel Clemmons, sleepwalked through much of the half with turnovers infrequently interrupted by coherent possessions.
Jackson’s crew improved significantly in the third quarter.
"Our defensive intensity in our press," Jackson said of the key to fighting back. "... We were this close. We just could not tie it up. If we had found a way to tie it, I think we would have won the game."
But Kell weathered the storm — with some help from several missed layups that could have really turned the tide — to keep a seven-point lead heading to the final period.
Another run had Cass within 34-32 with 1:10 left.
However, missed shots from the Colonels, who went 11 for 20 from the foul line, plus made free throws by the Longhorns added up to a Kell victory.
"I thought we got a lot of open looks," Jackson said. "We just couldn't make any shots tonight. I'm not going to name names — because I love the girls and I don't want them to feel bad — but we didn't make shots where we normally do.
"We missed a couple of easy layups in the third quarter when we were making our run. We've got to be able to convert in those situations."
Despite the disappointing finish to the season and the graduating seniors, Jackson believes the Colonels still have a chance to compete next year with five returning players who each started at least five games.
"I can honestly tell you I have five starters coming back next year," Jackson said. "Our JV girls finished 12-3, so you add the mix of those girls with what we have coming back, I think the future's bright."