"When we need to make a big play, we seem not to make it," Canes coach Dennis Godfrey said. "Right now, it's just not going in. ... We're just not making the play when we need it, through no fault of [anyone].
"The effort's there."
Cartersville took a three-point lead in the fourth quarter when Talique Cochran stole the ball and went in for a one-handed, breakaway jam.
After the Dragons' Austin Murphy made a 3-pointer to tie it at 45-all, Teigh Dooley responded with a long-range bomb, which restored the Canes' three-point lead.
Devin O'Connor hit another 3 for Cartersville a few plays later, and the Canes moved ahead, 51-47.
Murphy, however, answered the bell once more for Pickens to cut the deficit to one.
When Cochran and Dalven Penn could not connect on the former's drive-and-dish attempt, the Dragons had the ball with a chance to go ahead, which they did on Spencer Jones' 3.
Pickens managed to take a 54-51 lead, but the Canes' Ryan Davis stole the ball from a Dragons player and put the ball through following Cochran's free-throw miss on a one-and-one.
Leading 54-53, Pickens' Jordan Shaw split a pair of free throws, with the miss being rebounded by Cochran who went coast to coast to tie the game with a left-handed layup.
Murphy got an open look, albeit about five feet from the 3-point line, but missed as time expired in regulation.
Cartersville won a tip to start OT, but an over-and-back call gave the possession to the Dragons, who scored as Jones scored a layup while drawing a foul.
Jones' free throw was off, and the Canes were able to take a 58-57 lead on Davis' 3 as the action began to heat up.
The two teams embarked on a sequence where they traded four shots from beyond the arc, with Pickens' Murphy and Sam Crawford nailing 3s between one from Cartersville's Cochran.
Following Crawford's 3, Cochran got the ball inside to Penn, who used great position to tie the game at 63-all.
Murphy's free throws gave the Dragon's a two-point lead, and Penn had his free throw rattle out before a lane violation returned the ball to Pickens.
As the Dragon's spread out their offense, Shaw was able to drive through an open lane for a layup and four-point lead.
Cochran kept it close with his layup at the 41-second mark, but Pickens hit two more free throws to go ahead 69-65, a margin that held after the Canes came up empty on their final possession.
Tuesday night's loss to the Dragons gave Cartersville its eighth defeat in a row, with half of those coming by six points or less.
"We've lost a lot of close games," Godfrey acknowledged.
Early on, it did not look like the Canes would keep the game close at all, with Pickens racing to an 8-0 lead.
Cochran seized the reins, though, and kept his team in it with nine first-quarter points, including a 3 to cut the lead to 15-12.
Teigh Dooley hit a 3 and then came up with a steal, getting the ball ahead to Donlin Hinton who scored the final bucket of the quarter.
Cartersville trailed 20-17 after one quarter.
The Canes continued to build momentum in the second and grabbed their first lead of the game -- 24-23 -- on Devin O'Connor's offensive putback. The Dragons wrestled the lead from Cartersville to go up 28-27 at halftime.
The lead changed hands seven times in the third quarter before Cochran's bucket gave the Canes a 37-36 advantage heading into the final quarter. He pushed his team ahead at 39-36 and again at 41-40.
Cochran finished with a game-high 26 points to go along with seven assists, six steals and five rebounds. Davis added 12 points, Dooley 9 and O'Connor 8.
Jones led Pickens with 24 points and 14 rebounds; Shaw scored 15, pulled down eight boards and dished out seven assists; Wesley Easterwood finished with 13; and Murphy added 12, with all his points coming after halftime. Crawford grabbed 11 rebounds.
With the loss to Pickens, Cartersville (4-16, 1-9 Region 7B-AAA) finished up the regular season and now awaits the No. 1 seed from the north sub-region, which has yet to be determined.
Godfrey sounded hopeful for what his team may be able to do next Tuesday in the region tournament, in spite of how things have gone lately.
"We got a great opportunity to go in and surprise some people," he said. "As I told the kids, a sixth seed won the Super Bowl. ... This [loss] will either keep that hunger alive in that individual or could go the other way.
"I told 'em in there, the fun's getting ready to start," Godfrey said. "It's what you do in February and March [that counts] in basketball."