Canes knock off region contender; Excel wins 4th straight; Cass loses nail-biter to Rome

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The Cartersville boys basketball team played an important game Tuesday night at Northwest Whitfield.

Cartersville’s lone region loss was to Northwest before the Canes got their football players back. Adding to the stakes of the game, Both Cartersville and Northwest had one loss in Region 7-AAAA, creating a three-way tie atop the standings with Heritage, Catoosa.

That tie is now a two-way tie between Cartersville and Heritage as the Canes put together a strong fourth quarter and topped Northwest by a score of 73-65.

“It was a great game. ... Huge win on the road,” Cartersville head coach Mike Tobin said. “They’re always tough here. We played smart and just turned it up a notch on defense.”

Northwest Whitfield began the game on a 10-1 run, but the Canes were able to come back and eventually tie the game at halftime and take a two-point lead into the fourth quarter. It was in the final period when the Canes turned it on.

“We were down 10-1 to start the game. So I was proud of the fact that we battled back,” Tobin said. “It was back and forth all fourth quarter. Jaylon Pugh was in foul trouble the whole game. He maybe played 10 minutes the whole game and he ended up scoring eight points in the fourth quarter. He hit two 3s for us. Trase Fezzia came up big again. He had six points in the fourth quarter. We had some big steals, too.”

With Cartersville’s leading scorer, Pugh, in foul trouble, other Canes were able to step up. Fezzia and Travon Davis each scored 13 points, while Cade Archer had 10 and Cortney Cooley scored nine.

“Really, Jaylon averages about 16 a game, so guys picked it up without him,” Tobin said. “In the fourth quarter, I thought we played pretty good defense. We hit a couple of shots. Jaylon hit two 3s and Trase hit a 3. I guess the biggest difference is we hit shots.”

In addition to the big win, Cartersville also had a welcome sign with the return of Gabe Gridley coming off an injury he sustained in the state championship football game in the Georgia Dome Dec. 12. Gridley came off the bench and hit a 3-pointer in his first shot attempt of the season.

Now in the second half of the region schedule, Cartersville is 13-5 overall and 9-1 in region play. The Canes will play LaFayette Friday at the Storm Center.

Excel 68, Mount Paran 53

Coming off two big wins last week against teams ranked higher in the Class A Private power rankings, Excel boys basketball head coach Matt Sanders was worried about a letdown.

That did not happen Tuesday night as the Eagles cruised to a 68-53 win on the road to move to 10-9 overall and 4-1 in Region 6A-A.

“This was one of those games where I had some concern coming off two huge wins. I was kind of concerned if we would have that drop off,” Sanders said. “In practice [Monday] and our film session [Tuesday] morning, we emphasized our defense has to come on the road with us, and we came out pretty strong.”

Excel started out on fire as the team scored 22 points in the first quarter while holding Mount Paran to 10. From there, Excel’s defense was able to keep the lead until the final buzzer.

“Once again, that defensive intensity set the tone on what we were able to do throughout the course of the game,” Sanders said. “We rebounded very well. Joseph Cuomo rebounded extremely well. Dylan Drew came off the bench and rebounded extremely well in spots. We put them in uncomfortable positions and that’s what we want to do. They only had one guy in double figures, so we knew, if we could limit them and not let their role players get off the way they have been, that would be our best chance at it.”

Darius Thrower led Excel with 24 points and Chris Hale contributed 17.

“Credit to Dylan Drew and Hunter Johnson. They came off the bench and played different roles for us,” Sanders said of players who stepped up against Mount Paran. “Caleb West didn’t have a great night. Latrel Jones didn’t have a great night. But Hunter johnson and Dylan Drew picked up the slack and contributed in a big way. We’re going to depend on those guys as we try to make a push for the region and state tournaments the next couple of weeks.”

Along with the win, Excel also got some other good news Tuesday when the Class A Private power rankings were released and the Eagles moved up six spots to No. 19, just three spots off the top 16 that make the state playoffs.

“Honestly, that kind of surprised me,” Sanders said of the latest power rankings. “I didn’t know if we were going to be able to jump six spots. That’s a lot of spots to jump. For us to get wins against two quality teams in Christian Heritage and Walker, that is big for us. We still have chances down the road with Temple, North Cobb Christian, Christian Heritage again and even in the region tournament.”

Rome 66, Cass 65

The Cass boys basketball team was neck and neck with Rome throughout Tuesday’s road region game.

Cass led early thanks to some hot shooting by Mike Sims, but Rome came back to take a 33-29 lead at halftime.

Rome opened up a double-digit lead in the second half, but Cass was able to draw closer and had a chance to win the game down one with possession of the ball with 12 seconds remaining.

However, Rome would hold on for the win, sending Cass to 8-11 overall and 2-7 in region play.

The Colonels will return to the court Friday with another region game at Sequoyah.