A missed layup here or a rimmed out free throw there early in a game might not seem like a big play, and it the grand scheme of things it usually isn't. But those mistakes tend to pile on top of each other. Against the top teams, it will always come back to bite you.
That's what happened when Cartersville couldn't overcome an early deficit and trailed throughout in a 48-36 loss to Troup County on Friday night at The Storm Center.
"We had so many missed opportunities in the first half," Canes head coach Cindy Moore said. "Missed eight pretty much point-blank [shots], missed seven or eight free throws. That was the difference in the first half. We had opportunities; we did what we needed to do; and we did not capitalize.
"I think we played even or one point better than them in the second half. Right there with them. That tells you if you do what you're capable of — you don't have to do anything extra — we're right in the ballgame."
Amber Gilbert had eight points in the first quarter to help Troup take a 13-7 lead into the second period. Cartersville went 2-for-9 from the line in the first half, as Troup extended its lead to 23-14 at halftime.
The Canes made their best run late in the third quarter and into the fourth. Lehla Thomas scored seven of her 16 points all in a row. Her and-1 finish early in the final stanza had Cartersville within 35-27.
A fast-break chance moments later gave the Canes the possibly to pull within six. It ended in a turnover, and the Tigers responded with an 11-2 run to seal the game.
As they have time and again, the Canes gave the visitors fits in the halfcourt. The Tigers, though, managed to get enough transition offense and hit just enough outside shots to keep the Canes at arm's length.
It was also the length of Troup's arms that kept Cartersville from having success on the offensive end of the floor, which made even more important for the Canes to take advantage of their layups and free throws.
"They use their size and length," Moore said of the Tigers. "They're tough to pass around. ... We were on our heels. I don't want to say we were intimidated, but we definitely didn't do what we needed to do in the first half."
Troup completes the first half of the Region 5-AAAA schedule in second place. The Tigers (12-5, 5-1) lost a tight game to Sandy Creek, which sits atop the standings, but has handled everyone else rather easily. Cartersville (10-8, 2-4) showed Friday why they can legitimately contend for third in the region, if they can put together a few complete performances down the stretch.
"Our goal has always been to be playing our best basketball at the end of January, heading into February," Moore said. "I think a complete 32-minute game is out there for us. We've shown minutes and halves, maybe three quarters. If we put a full game together, we can beat anybody in this region. ...
"I do believe our best basketball is ahead of us. We've done some really good things at times, but if we can be firing on all cylinders in a couple of weeks, that's really what you want anyway."