Cass takes down higher-seeded team; Excel, Cartersville roll

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The Cass boys basketball team had been playing well recently, but did not have many region wins to show for it.

That changed Tuesday when the Colonels earned an important win over the No. 3 team in the subregion, defeating Creekview by a score of 69-60 at Cass High.

“It’s a huge win for us and we needed it,” Cass head coach David Brock said. “We’ve been playing really good basketball, probably since the week before the Cartersville game, and we played well again tonight.”

Creekview led after the first quarter, but Cass was able to open up a double-digit lead over the second and third quarters. In the fourth, Creekview got hot from the 3-point line, drawing the Colonels’ lead down to three points with four minutes remaining in the game.

However, a drive and dish from Matt Mundy to Jake Collum down low, a few crucial stops on defense and 8-of-10 shooting from the free throw line in the last few minutes allowed Cass to hold on for the victory, improving the Colonels’ record to 9-11 overall and 3-7 in Region 7-AAAAA.

“That’s what [assistant coach Gregg] Hedden said. He thought we were shooting well,” Brock said of his team’s free-throw makes down the stretch. “That was big for us to close them out. We’ve had some struggles with that, but we had ice water in our veins at the end to close it.”

At one point in the third quarter, Cass had mounted a 13-point lead thanks an 8-0 run with two minutes left in the third quarter, beginning with a steal and layup from Ian Whittington, followed by consecutive 3s by Mike Sims and C.J. Bennett. Sims scored 16 of his game-high 25 in the first half and hit seven 3s in the game. Bennett added 18 points with three 3s for Cass. Cass hit five 3-pointers in the third quarter to take a 54-44 lead into the fourth. Mundy also hit three 3s in the middle two quarters.

“We’re really good when we can dribble-penetrate and kick to those shooters in the corners,” Brock said. “When C.J., Mike and Mundy hit jump shots, there’s nobody around here that’s really going to be able to beat us, and that’s what we did today. We hit a lot of jump shots, and that kind of opened us up getting into the lane and doing things we wanted to do. The third quarter was a good one for us.”

In addition to the hot shooting, Cass also picked up its defense after the first quarter. After allowing Creekview to score 20 points in the first quarter, the Colonels held Creekview to 28 percent shooting in the second and third quarters, and forced 12 turnovers in the second half.

“We didn’t change a whole lot up,” Brock said of the improved defense. “We were still playing our zones and mixing in the three different ones that we use, but we came out and we weren’t active in it. That’s what kills us. When we’re not active, teams that have some height like them, they can see over the zone and throw it if our hands are down. We just came out flat and it took us a little bit to get going. We started getting deflections and steals like that and that’s kind of what got us going.”

The win was more impressive because starting point guard Ashton Burley was injured and missed the game. Jacquez Milles stepped into the point guard role and dished out four assists, including two in Cass’ 8-0 run in the third quarter, adding a couple of big rebounds and a steal in the fourth.

“[Burley] just has a little bit of an ankle injury, but we just wanted to keep an eye on him and not risk him or anything,” Brock said. “I told [Milles] before the game and I told the other guys, ‘It’s next man up.’ I mean, yeah, we want Ashton out there, but we need the next guy in line to step up and we did that today. We didn’t really miss a beat. Those guys knew what to do and got the job done for us.”

Cass wil return to action Friday with the team’s last home game of the regular season against Dalton.

Excel 58, Trion 54

Despite a four-game win streak, the Excel boys basketball team dropped one spot to No. 20 in the Class A Private power rankings released Tuesday by the GHSA.

Still, Excel is a team that will likely being making a move up the rankings next week, as evidenced by the team’s 58-54 region win over Trion on the road Tuesday.

“It’s a good win,” Excel head coach Matt Sanders said of the game. “Anytime you go on the road in region play and win, you take that.”

Excel led early and was able to maintain a 12-point lead entering the fourth quarter, despite not having the team’s best shooting performance. Trion began to foul in the fourth quarter, and the Eagles were struggling to make free throws, which Trion used to close the score. In the end, it came down to Darius Thrower making free throws, and he hit four big ones down the stretch to seal the game.

“We were struggling to hit shots. We were struggling to make our free throws down the stretch. Our free throws just weren’t falling for us,” Sanders said. “In times like that, that’s when you have to look toward your leaders. Darius Thrower stepped up and knocked down four big ones to seal it and make it a two-possession game. ... That’s when you have to look for our leader, our horse, our go-to guy and say, ‘Hey, we need you to make these free throws for us.’ He was able to step up to the line and knock them down with confidence.”

With the win, Excel improves to 11-9 overall and 5-1 in region play. The Eagles will next take on Mount Zion on the road Friday.

Cartersville 70, Gilmer 49

Heading into Friday’s game at Heritage, Catoosa with the No. 1 seed in the Region 7-AAAA tournament on the line, the Cartersville boys basketball team was looking to pick up some momentum, particularly after a disappointing loss Monday.

The Canes responded Tuesday and played much better than their previous game to rout Gilmer by a score of 70-49 on the road.

“We played a lot better. It was like night and day,” Cartersville head coach Mike Tobin said of the difference between Monday’s loss and Tuesday’s win. “We got after it on defense, got hands up on the closeouts. We kept guys in front of us. We got up by, I think, one time by as much as 30. We had a lot more intensity than we had [Monday].”

Cartersville held a 10-point lead heading into the second quarter, a 15-point lead going into halftime and only opened the lead up from there before substituting the starters out in the fourth quarter.

Travon Davis led the scoring with 15 points, while Cade Archer scored 11, JKobe Orr had 10 in just two quarters of action, and Kobie Whitfield and Jaylon Pugh each had nine.

With the win, Cartersville improves to 14-6 and 10-2 in region play ahead of the big game Friday at Heritage.

“We’ve had flashes of playing like this. We had three or four games where we’ve looked really, really good,” Tobin said of the way his team played Tuesday. “Unfortunately, the last two games, we’ve looked not so good. I know we have it in us. A game like Heritage, I know the guys are going to be fired up to play, but we should be fired up to play everybody.”