Adairsville (2-4, 2-1 Region 7A-AA) fell behind the Blue Devils (6-4, 2-1) at the onset of the game, but rallied back to within one point by halftime and had tied the game at 42-all heading into the fourth quarter.
“We responded well in the second quarter,” said Tigers coach Jacob Travis, “and then [we] ran away with it in the fourth.”
In the fourth quarter, Adairsville extended the lead to nine points within the first three minutes behind three 3-pointers, including two from Roderic King — both off assists from Chanse Fuleki. Fuleki had the middle 3 in the run as the Tigers staked a 51-44 lead with 5:25 to go.
Model did not notch another field goal until two minutes later as Quinton Cotton pickpocketed a Tigers player and went in for a lay-in. That cut the Adairsville lead to 52-47, but the Blue Devils never were able to get the lead below the 5-point threshold.
With their leading scorer Shaqueille Calhoun fouled out at the 1:38 mark, Model failed to put a dent into the Tigers 54-49 lead and the hosts were able to increased that advantage behind Austin Greenfield’s breakaway layup.
“I think we caught ’em on a good night,” Travis said of the Blue Devils, noting he expected them to make some of the shots they took in the fourth. “I thought we bothered some defensively. … We caught a big break with Shaq fouling out.”
But, the Adairsville coach praised his team for finding a way to get it done. The Tigers lost a slim lead in last Friday’s loss to Rockmart but closed the deal this time around.
“Tonight we kept attacking and found a way to win,” Travis added. “I think we hit six or seven 3s. … Tonight we hit ’em and [it was a] big momentum swing for us.”
Adairsville did not have much luck early on shooting the ball. Following Fuleki’s make from behind the arc to start the game, Model went on a 13-0 run — with Calhoun scoring nearly half that total.
The Tigers responded with consecutive buckets from Austin Harrell and Fuleki, but the Blue Devils maintained a 10-point edge at the end of the first, 17-7.
The hosts, however, opened quarter No. 2 with six straight points, including a two-handed dunk from King to pull Adairsville within four and send the crowd into a frenzy.
Model managed to stem the tide and went back ahead 22-14, but the Tigers continued to chip away at the lead. King fed Fuleki in the post twice and then Greenfield made a layup to make the score 24-20.
A 7-0 Adairsville run sparked by a Kyle Adams 3 tied the game at 27-all and after a Fuleki layup, the Tigers trailed 30-29 at the break.
Fuleki’s clutch play continued after intermission with the 6-foot-2 wingman putting Adairsville ahead by two early in the third quarter — a lead the Tigers never relinquished.
When Adairsville strung together a 6-0 run to go up 38-32, it prompted a timeout from the Blue Devil bench.
Model worked the lead down to 40-39 and following an offensive putback from Fuleki, the Blue Devils got a Calhoun free throw and Davy Fisher jumper to tie the game at 42-all by the quarter’s end.
Fuleki made sure that tie did not stand long, though. After a 9-point third quarter, the senior was able to draw Model’s attention away from King twice early in the fourth, not to mention his 3-point dagger at the top of the key to make it 48-42.
“I think Chanse Fuleki deserves a lot of the credit,” Travis acknowledged. Fuleki, he said, finished with 23 points and nine rebounds.
Also drawing kudos from the coach was King, whose points came in second and fourth quarters — important stretches for the Tigers.
“Roderic King really sparked us tonight with 12 points, and [he] hit some big 3s in the fourth quarter to keep attacking ’em,” Adairsville’s coach said of King, who also had five rebounds.
Travis added that his two big guys — 6-foot-9 Zach Coker (6 points) and 6-foot-3 Harrell (10) — are often the unsung heroes but helped their team’s cause with a combined 16 rebounds — 10 from Coker.
As for point guard Tyler Washington, Travis said he never got a breather throughout the entire game. He pointed to Washington’s ability to handle the pressure late as a key moment in the game. The sophomore finished with six assists.
Calhoun led the visitors with 15 points while Cotton added 11.
Travis said he knew the Tigers would come along gradually but feels his team has worked itself into shape and has a better grasp of what to do going into games.
“We knew we’d be behind. We really like our team, but we knew we’d be behind,” he said. “We feel like we’re prepared after three weeks. … Tonight was probably one of the best teams we’ve played.”
Despite the good win, Travis told his team not to get too high and said he wants to see how his players respond in the team’s next game. Adairsville plays a region crossover game with Sonoraville on Friday. Tip-off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m.