The Cartersville boys and Troup County finished in a tie Friday night. Not in the points column, but in made 3-pointers with a staggering 14 apiece.
With the two programs playing to a dead heat from deep, the Canes took advantage of late free throws to pull away for an 88-76 victory in an action-packed Region 5-AAAA game at The Storm Center.
"The way they shot the ball was unbelievable," Cartersville head coach Mike Tobin said in reference to Troup, although he could have easily been referring to his guys. "That No. 4 kid [JaQuavo McFarland] was on fire. The last three or four minutes we said, 'Don't let him touch the ball.' But he hit some huge 3s for them.
"To me, it's impressive as heck for them to shoot that way on the road. It's one thing at home, but on the road? They're a good team."
He also heaped praise on his guys for responding to the hot-shooting Tigers with answer-back 3s of their own. Kolbe Benham and Perignon Dyer were the main marksman on this occasion. Benham drilled six shots from beyond the arc, including three in the third quarter, as part of a team-high 26 points. Dyer added 22 points with 15 of them coming from deep.
"They went to work; they really did," Tobin said of the pair. "... It seemed like every time they made that run to take the lead or get real close, Kolbe would hit some big shots and Perignon hit some big shots."
Dyer had eight points and Benham had seven in a back-and-forth first period. However, McFarland and Gabe Cofield had two 3s each and Troup made its size advantage inside count on the offensive glass to keep the Tigers within 22-20 after one.
"We told them, in order to have a chance to win, 'You have to be physical underneath,'" Tobin said. "There were times they just destroyed us inside. I bet they had at least 15 offensive boards. They just killed us on the boards. A lot of times, we were boxing out. They were just so doggone strong."
Troup's two shooters had a triple apiece in the second quarter, but Dyer knocked down a pair of his own to help the Canes extend their lead to 37-30 by halftime.
Benham and McFarland started their own personal 3-point shooting contest in the third quarter. Each hit three shots from outside, as the teams exchanged the lead through the closing minutes of the stanza.
Cartersville carried a slight 55-52 lead into the fourth quarter, but Troup hit five times from beyond the arc in the final period. The Tigers took a brief lead at 58-57 before the Canes regained the advantage for good.
Amarai Orr and Isaac Gridley also reached double-figures for Cartersville with 16 and 14 points, respectively. The duo went a combined 8-for-9 at the foul line in the fourth quarter to help the Canes close out the key win.
Gridley, Orr, Benham and Dyer each had at least six points in the fourth quarter, as Cartersville racked up a season-high 88 points.
Cartersville (9-10, 3-3) proved to be the better team, at least on this night, but Troup (11-7, 3-3) will certainly be looking forward to a rematch at its place to close out the regular season on Feb. 2.
The two teams are part of a jumbled mess in the middle of the region standings. At this point, all the teams are battling for second place with Sandy Creek still unbeaten in the region. That's why Friday's win was monumental in Tobin's eyes.
"I know it sounds like making excuses, but I really feel like we're just getting started," Tobin said. "Getting those football guys Dec. 17, those other teams are a month and a half ahead of us. I think we're just finally starting to get used to playing with each other and getting a rhythm.
"It's huge getting through here 3-3 instead of 2-4. It's a big deal."
He added, "I'm super happy we still have a chance to get that No. 2 seed after the way we started."