Excel, Cass pick up key wins

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Excel stepped up its defensive play and forced more turnovers to move into second place in Region 6A with a 35-28 victory over Christian Heritage on Friday night.

Also, Cass pressed its offensive accelerator in the second half to defeat Woodland, 48-33, in a region game against their cross-county rival.

Excel 35, Christian Heritage 28

Led by Whitney Harris with 15 points, Excel claimed its second game in a row and defeated its region’s No. 2 seed, 35-28.

The Lady Eagles improved their overall record to 8-7 and now are 3-1 in region play.

“I felt like our girls played hard,” head coach Eric Harris said. “We have to take care of the ball a little bit better. We turned it over a good bit, but we caused a lot of turnovers, too.

“Also, we played good defense. Christian Heritage is a good team and has beaten Mount Paran, who is the frontrunner, I think, in the region.”

He said the Lady Eagles did some good things in the game but showed a need to improve.

“We still have to do a better job handling the ball and not turning it over so much, but tonight we got our ninth win,” Harris said. “I don’t know when the last time this program has seen nine wins. Ten wins is the record for a girls team since the school has been established. That’s one of our goals, to try to break the school record.”

He said the Lady Eagles have continued to improve this season.

“We’re starting to shoot a little better,” he said. “Whitney [Harris] is coming around and Anna Lane [Hattaway] hit some key shots tonight, so we’re moving the ball. Inside we struggled a bit tonight but most nights we make our living inside.”

Excel led most of the way against Christian Heritage.

Rylie Boston put Excel on the scoreboard about half a minute into the game by sinking the two free throws she was awarded after being fouled in the act of shooting.

Boston then buried a turnaround jumper deep in the paint for a 4-0 lead at the 5:30 mark of the initial quarter.

Christian answered with a foul shot, but Whitney Harris drove down the center of the lane for an easy layup and the home team took a 6-1 lead with 2:42 remaining.

A bucket by Kalli Beth Scheff and two free throws by Harris gave Excel a 10-1 lead after a quarter of play.

Christian Heritage outscored the home team, 10-7, in the second quarter for a 10-7 lead.

Harris stole a Christian Heritage pass and drove down the lane where she was fouled in the act of shooting, giving her team a 12-7 lead after her free throws swished the net.

Hattaway hit a 3-pointer for a 15-7 lead and the visitors dropped a deuce through the bucket to close to 15-9.

Brighton McCollum scored a second-chance bucket to close out scoring in the frame and Excel carried a 17-11 lead into halftime.

The defenses of both teams stiffened in the third quarter as Harris scored five points and Hattaway found the range with a trey.

Excel outscored its foe 8-3.

Christian Heritage tallied 14 points to 10 for Excel in the final period. Harris scored the final four points for her team, all on foul shots.

Among the other Lady Eagle scorers were Boston, 7; Hattaway, 6; and McCollum, 3.

Excel entertains Walker today with a 1:30 p.m. tipoff.

Cass 48, Woodland 33

Woodland grabbed a modest lead early, but Cass began asserting itself in the second period by edging ahead.

Woodland held a 6-5 lead after a quarter of play, but Cass reversed that to go ahead 18-17 with a 13-11 run in the second frame.

In the third period, Cass expanded its lead to double digits, 36-26, with an 18-9 third quarter.

Cass used a 12-7 run to close the game with the tally at 48 to 33.

“I’m very proud of the girls finding a way to win the basketball game,” head Cass coach Burt Jackson said. “Anytime you play a region game, and it’s a cross-county rivalry on top of that, it’s going to always be really intense.

“Our girls came out with a lot of energy and got some big shots from the outside. I’m very proud of how they played.”

Woodland kept things close throughout the first half, trailing by just a point at the break.

Kyle Morgan, Woodland head coach, said Cass got a boost in the second half when Esmeralda Thomas, its star guard who was injured in the first half, was able to return.

“I felt like she provided a spark for them,” Morgan said. “They did a better job shooting and taking care of the ball, and that allowed them to win the game.”

Cass outscored Woodland 33-16 in the second half.

Payton Stoddard led Cass with 14 points while Thomas dropped in 13 points. Jana Morning scored 10 for Cass; Kyla Michienzi tallied 5; Alexis Ware, 4; and Lexy Walraven, 2.

Cass next plays Adairsville today.

“Hopefully we can keep it going and get a little momentum going into Adairsville [tonight],” Jackson added.

Cass improved its record to 10-8 overall and is 3-5 in region play. The teams have a scheduled 6 p.m. tipoff.

Woodland (4-13, 0-6) was led by Gabby Bradley with 17 points.

Morgan said the Lady Wildcats need to keep improving to increase their win totals late in the season.

“We play Cartersville at 5:30 p.m. Monday, and we’re hoping we can draw a good crowd to help us,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll get the result Monday that we were hoping for against Cass tonight.”