When it came time to make a run, however, Excel found its sweet-shooting stroke and rallied from a double-digit deficit to upend the host Tigers, who were hoping for a season-opening win. The victory instead went to the Eagles, 33-30.
"It's all about preseason work, the work we put in before the season started," first-year Excel coach Jon-Michael Nickerson said. "They believed."
Despite trailing by 11 points following a steal and a layup by Adairsville's Austin Greenfield, the Eagles erased the double-digit deficit through sheer persistence.
Mason Butt grabbed an offensive rebound and converted his only bucket of the game to bring Excel within nine, 25-16.
Roderic King then knocked down a top-of-the-key 3-pointer to give the Tigers their biggest lead of the night at 28-16.
Undeterred, the Eagles matched King's 3 with one of their own as Myles Lawson took a feed from D.J. Garnigan and drained a shot from the corner, a combination that helped the visitors get back in the game.
After an Adairsville miss, Garnigan grabbed the rebound and headed down court, eventually finding Lawson again, who sunk another jumper -- a 2-pointer -- to draw Excel within seven at 28-21.
Another unproductive Tigers possession gave the Eagles an opportunity to cut further into the lead, which they did as Garnigan spotted Lawson once again as the junior small forward hit his third straight jump shot.
Adairsville responded with Greenfield scoring on an offensive rebound to give the Tigers a 30-24 lead.
Excel continued its rally even after Lawson finally missed with under 3 minutes to go. Garnigan collected the errant shot, slid into the lane and put in a soft, left-handed shot while drawing contact from an Adairsville defender. Garnigan completed the three-point play by sinking a free throw at the 2:37 mark.
The lid remained on the basket for the Tigers, who came up empty on another fourth-quarter possession, and Garnigan got the ball out to Casey Brown. With a clean look at the basket, Brown tied things up with the Eagles' third 3 of the quarter.
A couple of possessions later, Brown came up with a steal on one end of the floor and got back down court in time to receive an assist from Garnigan, knocking down what turned out to be the game-winning basket.
Nickerson felt his team would eventually come around if it kept getting the same looks it failed to convert early in the game.
"We were getting open look after open look," he said of Excel's shooting woes through three quarters. "Once they [saw] one ball go in, the bottom fell out. You can't hold 'em down for 32 minutes. We got too many good shooters."
Adairsville coach Jacob Travis praised the Eagles for their play down the stretch and said his team began doing silly things, like leaving shooters wide open.
"[I give a] lot of credit to Excel. They hit some shots. We lost our composure," Travis acknowledged, noting that his team was impatient on offense.
Even with its failures coming down the stretch, the Tigers still had chances to cut into the lead as Excel went 0 for 6 from the free-throw line. But, as one particular play demonstrated, it would not be Adairsville's night.
Following a steal by the Tigers, Chanse Fuleki headed toward the goal with a few steps on the nearest Eagle defender, but an outlet pass intended for Fuleki was thrown too far and bounced out of bounds. Instead of a 33-32 deficit, Adairsville gave the ball back to Excel.
"It's one of those moments where you think, 'We don't have it going on,'" Travis said.
Neither team had it going on in the first half. Adairsville and Excel barely managed to reach double figures in the first half.
After two technical free throws by Garnigan to start the game, the Eagles went ahead by two points and gave themselves a two-possession lead minutes later when Garnigan stole the ball and went in for a layup.
Soon after, though, Excel went cold and the Tigers did not exactly heat things up themselves.
Three of Adairsville's first-quarter points came on free throws -- one from Zach Coker and two more from Austin Harrell. The Tigers grabbed their first basket -- and lead -- of the game on King's 3.
Brown answered for the Eagles, who led 7-6 going into the second quarter.
Both offenses bogged down even more in the second quarter. Excel made just one field goal, a Brown 3, and Adairsville managed two, King's breakaway, two-handed dunk and Harrell's layup.
The Tigers led 11-10 at halftime.
"We knew it was going to be tough. We've had a total of five days of practice together with everybody," Travis said.
In the second half, Adairsville looked to get things going as Coker and Harrell combined for nine points to extend the Tigers' lead to 20-10.
Things appeared hopeless for the Eagles, including at the 6:16 mark of the third quarter when Coker swatted a Lawson 3 out of bounds.
Excel managed to get a Garnigan 3 to get on the scoreboard before Harrell answered the shot. Adairsville led 23-14 going into the fourth quarter.
"We got some baskets in the paint," Travis explained of the Tigers' third-quarter surge. "I think our defense created some easy looks."
Ultimately, however, Adairsville could not maintain its run.
"We definitely had it going. I think our conditioning was a big factor. We couldn't sustain the run," Travis said. "That's a lot of credit to them. They came back and won that game."
Scorers for the Eagles were Brown, 12; Garnigan, 10; Lawson, 9; and Butt, 2.
Harrell led the Tigers with 12 points; King finished with 8; Coker chipped in with 6; and Greenfield had 4.
Adairsville (0-1) returns to the hardwood Friday with a home game against Sonoraville. "We gotta scratch this one off and go on with life," Travis said. Tip-off in that game is scheduled for 8:30 p.m.
Excel (3-0) travels to play Chattooga in its next game, and it hopes to continue building from its win Tuesday.
"They learned to win they're struggling on offense," Nickerson said of his players. "That is when you build that chemistry that nobody can break."