After the Purple Hurricanes' J.R. Davis passed off to teammate Ryan Davis for the potential go-ahead bucket, the Colonels needed a couple of timeouts, and a fortuitous deflection, to snatch a victory away from their crosstown rivals. Cass' Kadeem Sutton collected a tipped inbounds pass with under 4 seconds remaining and turned around to shoot the game-winner, sending the Colonels to a 59-58 triumph and fans toward the court, at least momentarily -- school administrators pointed them back to the stands.
Greg Scott, Cass head coach, acknowledged that the play did not exactly unfold as expected.
"The play didn't come off the way we drew it up because the ball got tipped when it was coming inbounds. Kadeem just happened to be in the right spot at the right time to catch the rebound off of it and made a spin move and was able to elevate and get his shot off," Scott said. "So, we were a little bit fortunate and lucky on that last shot, and I'll take it. Sometimes it pays to be lucky, moreso than you are good."
Cartersville head coach Dennis Godfrey lauded his team for its defense on the final play, even if luck happened to be on the other side this time around.
"If you study basketball long enough it's not the initial shot that beats you, it's always that second or third shot," Godfrey said. "We defended it well both times and I've been in this a long time and I've seen some go in, I've seen some of 'em miss."
"I've been on both ends of it. I like the other end. It feels better," he said.
It was hard for anyone to know what to feel for much of the night as each team appeared determined to match the other, setting the stage for a back-and-forth, seesaw-type battle.
Jozelle Payne knocked down a 3-pointer and added two more baskets on offensive putbacks as Cass got out to a 9-2 lead. The Canes fought back to take the lead, going on a 6-0 run, as J.R. Davis notched the final two points of the run to put his team ahead, 11-10.
The Colonels, however, managed to get back in front and took a 14-11 lead into the second quarter.
Another 6-0 run by Cartersville gave the visitors their second lead of the game at 21-20. Cass pushed back to take the lead behind Najae Jackson's offensive putback and Sutton's 2-point basket, a lead that lasted briefly as the Canes surged back ahead, 26-24, punctuating things with a steal and a one-hand slam from Davis.
The Colonels scored the next four points and held on for a 36-30 lead at halftime.
In the third quarter, Cartersville's Davis heated up, matching his first-half total with 12 points. The 5-foot-8 senior guard tallied his team's first and last five points of the quarter, including a 3 near the end of it to put the Canes two behind Cass, 50-48, going into the fourth.
Looking to continue his hot streak, Davis drove the lane and pulled up for a jump shot to tie the game at 52-all. Payne quickly responded as he calmly stepped into a 3 off an assist from Drew McKaig. The lead then extended to 57-52 on Sutton's bucket.
Needing a score badly, Cartersville's Dalven Penn snagged an offensive board and scored while drawing a foul. Though he could not convert the three-point play attempt, Penn's bucket made it a one-possession game with around 3:30 remaining.
Following consecutive turnovers from each team, the Colonels missed four straight free throws, allowing Davis an opportunity to nail a jumper and bring Cartersville within one at 57-56. Cass then gave up the ball with a turnover, and the Canes had a chance to seize the lead with 44 seconds to go.
As Davis dribbled at the top of the key, two and then three Colonel defenders surrounded the explosive guard, determined not to let him beat them. Just before losing the ball, Davis was able to fling a pass to Ryan Davis, who caught the ball near the baseline and headed to goal with one defender in the paint. Davis hit a double-clutch layup to give Cartersville a 58-57 edge.
Payne put up a floater on the other end, which skidded off the side of the rim and into McKaig's hands. Scott called a timeout. When Cass could not inbound the ball, he called another to set up the game's final play.
Scott noted that his team has some things to work on in terms of executing.
"Down the stretch, we missed four free throws, and I thought we took a couple of shots that we shouldn't have taken because they were letting us run our offense and it hadn't got to the point to where they were ready to foul yet, so they were letting us eat that clock. And we probably could've done a better job of keeping the ball in Drew's hands or Zeke's [Reed] hands or somebody like that for foul shooting rather than it being Jozelle and Kadeem going to the line," he said. "So, from that standpoint, we got by with a win tonight, but there are some things that we've got to do in key situations to handle 'em better next time."
Godfrey said his team did not hit at its usual clip.
"We didn't shoot the ball particularly well. I don't even know how many 3s we made, not many. We usually are a better shooting 3 team, but you gotta give Cass credit," he added. "They did a good job defensively on us on the 3. You can't fault anything, great effort, we just came up short. We'll grow from this and learn and just get better."
Scorers for Cartersville were J.R. Davis, 29; Ryan Davis, 8; Penn, 7; Devin O'Connor, 4; Tavaris Brown, 2; Kevan Washington, 2; A.J. Mosby, 2; and LaTerry Hardy, 2. Penn added 12 rebounds for the Canes and J.R. Davis came away with six steals.
Cass' scorers were Sutton, 16; Reed, 16; Payne, 13; Jackson, 8; Andrew Hunt, 4; and McKaig, 2. Payne also grabbed 12 boards.
Cartersville's next game is Saturday at Dalton, with a 4:30 p.m. tip-off, and the Colonels play at Sequoyah next in their Region 7-AAAA opener, which begins at 7:30 p.m.