"We've been playing poorly, so we needed a win," said Cartersville coach Dennis Godfrey, whose team had lost to Woodland and Cedartown in a holiday tournament and once again to the latter team last Friday in a region game. "We got to utilize our quickness. We were trapping, moving. We had a lot of energy tonight, something that's been missing the last few games. Of course, this team is not as quick as Cedartown, and Cedartown kind of matched us for quickness."
While the Canes did not do a good job in their halfcourt offense against the Bulldogs, they displayed better execution in Tuesday night's game. Gilmer unveiled its halfcourt trap for much of the second half, but Cartersville moved the ball to the right spots and got open looks.
J.R. Davis swung the ball to Elijah Windom on the wing for an NBA-range 3-pointer that gave the Canes a 51-48 lead in the fourth quarter. Moments later, Devin O'Connor pulled down an offensive board and scored as Cartersville regained the lead, 53-52.
From there, the Canes were able to put the Bobcats away for good, getting back-to-back jumpers from Davis and another O'Connor bucket, which came off LaTerry Hardy's assist.
A pair of free throws from J.B. Charles cut Cartersville's lead to three points, 57-54, with 4:14 to go in the game.
The Canes, however, scored on their next three possessions, getting a field goal from O'Connor, who then fed a cutting Ryan Davis on the team's ensuing possession. By the time Davis found Windom in the lane for a jump shot, Cartersville led 65-56 en route to its first region win of the season.
Godfrey felt his team maintained its energy throughout while Gilmer may have tired down the stretch.
"They [came] out pushing it, so I felt like they got a little tired at the end, and we [were] getting stronger. That was the biggie," he said. "They play up and down. They got a couple of big kids that are pretty good players, and what they try to do is dribble penetrate and kick it to their shooters sometimes.
"When they start out pressing us, we feel like that's to our advantage because of our quickness. If we'll make better decisions, we'll capitalize, and we're making better decisions."
Having Ryan Davis back on the court has made a difference in the Canes' decision-making. Davis, who was injured last month in the loss to the Wildcats, may not be 100 percent as of yet, but his coach said his presence is being felt anyway.
"He sees the floor about as well as any guard we have, and he understands the game and makes the passes that [he] needs to make, usually at the right time," Godfrey said.
With Ryan Davis taking on some of the ballhandling duties, J.R. Davis did what Cartersville needs him to do, Godfrey said, and that is score. He closed with a game-high 21 points, including 9 in the fourth.
Giving the Canes some help offensively were Windom and Ryan Davis, 12 points, and O'Connor, 8.
"We've moved Elijah inside, and he's doing a real good job for us. I thought O'Connor did a good job inside, so we're starting to get some energy," Godfrey said. "We had energy, again, something we've been lacking since the second half of the Woodland game."
Other scorers for Cartersville were Tavaris Brown, 7; Kevan Washington, 4; Keith Gamble, 4; and Hardy, 3.
Reaching the scoring column for the Bobcats were Charles, 17; Ryan Lowery, 14; Connor Webber, 11; Austin White, 8; Drew Parks, 6; and Nathan Voyles, 4.
Gilmer got out to an early lead behind Lowery's 6 points, which allowed the visitors to take a 15-13 edge after the first as neither led by more than four.
The Bobcats scored two quick buckets in the second to stretch the lead to six. The Canes cut the lead to two on a field goal from J.R. Davis, but Gilmer went ahead 28-20 with six straight points.
Brown's offensive putback drew a foul and led to a converted three-point play by the Cartersville guard, trimming the deficit and giving the hosts some momentum.
"He just does what he's supposed to do," Godfrey said of Brown. "He made a hell of a three-point play there. That was big."
With that, the Canes managed to score 11 of the game's next 13 points, getting breakaway steals from Davis and Brown, and take a 31-30 lead. Cartersville was down, 32-31 at the half.
Things stayed close in the third, with three lead changes in the early going. Ryan Davis' offensive putback gave the Canes a 35-34 lead, and Washington extended it to 41-34 on his field goal. Gilmer did get within two -- 47-45 -- by the end of the quarter, though.
The Bobcats grabbed the lead at 50-48 on Webber's field goal before Cartersville seized control.
The victory moved the Canes (5-4, 1-1) above .500 and gave them their first region win as they prepare to welcome rival Allatoona to the Storm Center on Friday.
"[It] will be, probably, our toughest test to date, but those are the fun games," Godfrey said.
If Cartersville can get the kind of defense it had against Gilmer, to go along with an offense averaging close to 60 points per game, it should give itself a chance.
"We had effort, and we kept people in front of us much better, but we're still letting 'em go by us too much," Godfrey said afterward of his team's defense. "We did a great job of trapping and breaking on the weakside pass and getting some steals."
"You can be quicker than somebody, and that's true [of us], but all it takes is effort and all five men [committing] at one time," he added.