The Cartersville Purple Hurricanes put Tuesday's lopsided loss behind them Wednesday with a startling 26-point effort in the first quarter on their way to crushing Lumpkin County, 72-44, in the Pickens High Christmas Tournament on Wednesday.
But, good as that offensive output was, head coach Donna Enis cited the Lady Canes' defense as a big reason for the victory.
"We had a much better defensive effort today," Enis said. "Our focus was to get a good start and I feel like we did that."
How good was that effort?
A total of nine Lady Canes (6-4) turned into thieves 26 times in the contest -- just one short of tying the school record, Enis noted.
The larcenous leader was Kaelyn Irby, with nine. The freshman contributed eight assists and five rebounds, too.
Another key to the win, Enis said, was the performance of Katie O'Connor, the team's 6-foot freshman, who blocked four shots, a pair in the paint area and a couple outside.
"When you get steals and blocked shots, it changes the game and the momentum," Enis said.
She said she had asked the team to try to get off to a good start in the game, especially after its 87-56 loss to West Forsyth a day earlier in the holiday tournament.
The quick start was punctuated at the end of the first quarter with a 26-13 lead for the Lady Canes, who then stretched the differential to 40-27 by the half.
Lumpkin County kept the game close through the third quarter, when it trailed 51-38. Cartersville blew open the barn doors in the final period, outscoring their foes 21-6.
Still, the effort was not perfect as the Lady Canes gave up five 3-pointers.
Enis was philosophical about the Lady Canes not shutting down the outside completely: "We had better pressure so we shut down the inside and they turned to their outside shooting."
The coach said sophomore Jazmine Baldwin continued to grow as a rebounder, leading the team with eight.
Enis said the overall effort was good, as nine players snared rebounds.
"We're having a team effort," she said. "We are playing 10 and getting contributions from everyone. It makes you feel good to have that kind of contributions."
Scoring for the Lady Canes were April Gary, 3 points; Stefanie Will, 6 points; Kea Garnigan, 8; Irby, 22; Carlee Bragg, 3; Adrianne Green, 9; D'Yasmine Richards, 12; and Baldwin, 9.
Emma Thomaswick led Lumpkin County (2-10) with 9 points.
Cartersville next plays today at 6 p.m., when it lines up against Harrison.
Cass 56, Banneker 50
Cass won its third game in a row Wednesday as it slipped by Banneker, 56-50.
The victory lifted the Colonels' record to 9-3 on the season.
"It was a good win for us," Cass head coach Greg Scott said. "They beat Kennesaw Mountain (63-51) a few weeks ago and Kennesaw just beat us, 87-50."
Wednesday's win was not easy for Cass, as the Colonels outpointed their opponents in just one quarter -- the third -- to snare the victory.
The 17-5 third-quarter margin canceled out a 14-11 first-quarter lead that was seized by Banneker.
That lead grew to 24-20 at halftime. Cass took a 37-29 lead with its stiff defensive performance in the third period, and then the Colonels withstood a furious charge by Banneker.
"We did a good job taking care of the ball and then hitting our free throws in the fourth quarter, when Banneker was making a run at us," Scott said. "We hit 7-of-9 at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter."
Scoring for Cass were Tarris Batiste, 15; Trey Walker, 15; Jay Stephens, 12; Elijah Windom, 4; Sam Taylor, 3; Jozelle Payne, 2; Kaleb Reed, 2; Ian Clay, 2; and Tony Mitchell, 1.
Cass next plays again against Cherokee at 4:30 p.m. today.