Cass, which is hosting the region tournament, received a kick-start to its offense from super sub Tony Mitchell, and the Colonels jumped ahead of Johns Creek by nearly 20 points in the first half before holding off a late Gladiators’ rally for a 71-55 win.
“Tony’s been that spark plug for us all yearlong, and probably on a lot of teams Tony’s able to start. But he gives us something off the bench that if we put him in the starting lineup we can’t replace right now,” Cass coach Greg Scott said. “And I thought he did come off the bench and give us a lift.
“I thought Drew [McKaig] shot the ball well early. I thought after the first 3 minutes or so, or halfway through the first quarter, that we played well. We kind of kicked in and hit another gear, and we played well the rest of the half.”
Johns Creek led 4-0 before McKaig knocked down his first 3-pointer to get the Colonels within one point. After the Gladiators tied it at 5-all following Cass forward Najae Jackson’s shot in the lane, McKaig helped the hosts regain the lead with his second 3.
A three-point play by Johns Creek’s Ryan Lewis knotted things up. Mitchell gave Cass a two-possession lead with consecutive 3s and Kadeem Sutton added a score, ending the first with an 8-0 run and a 16-8 lead.
The Colonels extended their lead with another 8-0 run early in the second, which culminated with a basket from Sutton for a 24-10 advantage. Mitchell’s third 3 of the game put Cass ahead 29-13.
The last score of the half also came on a 3 for the Colonels as McKaig briefly lost control of the ball near the sideline before leaping up to tip it to top of the key where Jackson caught it in midair and got the shot off at the buzzer for a 34-16 lead.
Both teams traded scores for the majority of the third quarter, with Johns Creek matching Cass’s 15 points in the quarter to keep the deficit at 18 — 49-31.
Reed pushed the Colonels to a 20-point lead to start the fourth, but then the Gladiators scored 18 of the next 24 points, with Lewis’s three-point play trimming the deficit to 8 at 57-49.
“At the beginning of the second half, [we] we’re kind of steady, and then we hit like a three- or four-minute kind of lull in the second half where they made that run on us there in the fourth quarter and got back in it,” Scott said, “but I thought we did a good job of answering that and closing ’em out.”
Johns Creek couldn’t get any closer than 8 points as Cass finished the game out on a 14-6 run, which included a couple of press breaks from Mitchell who found Sutton for layups.
“I think our guards did a pretty good job in the second half — Tony did and Zeke did — of when somebody committed to them of finding Kadeem down under the basket,” Scott said. “He had a good game down underneath the basket for us.”
Sutton led the Colonels with 20 points; Mitchell and Reed had 12; and Jackson ended up with 11.
Adam Theisen poured in a game-high 22 points for the Gladiators and Lewis added 15.
Prior to Saturday’s victory, Cass had lost its last three games — a 70-65 four-overtime defeat at Rome, a 67-59 loss at Northwest Whitfield and a 59-53 loss at Cartersville.
“Getting a win’s good anytime following a loss, gets that taste out of your mouth. But I think more than anything this gives us a game under our belt in the tournament and gets the jitters out of the way,” Scott said. The Colonels head coach hopes Tuesday’s opponent, Chattahoochee, has some jitters after a 10-day layoff. “They’re gonna come in on Tuesday, and I hope they have a case of the jitters. You never know. There’s been a lot of times that David and Goliath have met and David won.”
Cass nearly slayed the mighty Cougars Jan. 14 in a 65-60 road loss. Scott believes his team can keep things close once again.
“[With] 8.3 seconds the last time we played ’em, it was a three-point game. We’ve gotta do a better job of defensive rebounding against ’em. I think we can defense ’em well enough to cause ’em to miss some first opportunities,” he said. “But I think we have to do the job on the backboard to not give ’em second and third looks at it. If we can do that and we shoot the ball like we have against ’em every game, I think it will go down to the wire like a lot of other games have. If we give them second and third looks, I think their height is a great advantage for them over us.”
The Colonels (14-12) are scheduled to tip off with Chattahoochee (20-5) at 7 p.m. Tuesday, with the winner moving on to the region tournament semifinals and, more importantly, earning a spot in the Class AAAA state tournament — which would be the second straight trip for Cass.
Chattahoochee 35, Lady Wildcats 26
As it has for much of the season, the Woodland girls basketball team gave a staunch defensive effort but couldn’t always find the basket Saturday as the Lady Wildcats’ year came to an end in a 35-26 loss to Chattahoochee at the Region 7-AAAA girls basketball tournament, which is being held at Cass High.
Woodland trailed 21-14 at one point in the third quarter but missed some shots that allowed the Lady Cougars to take a 27-14 lead into the fourth. The Lady Wildcats got the deficit back under 10 but couldn’t make it a two-possession game late as Chattahoochee came away with the victory.
Amari Carter scored 10 points to lead the Lady Cougars.
Scorers for Woodland were Ayrianna Metcalf, 9; Brooke Hummel, 7; Jessie Michaels, 6; Lyrica Solomon, 2; and Kennedy Robinson, 2.
The Lady Wildcats conclude their year with a 5-20 mark, a one-game improvement from last season.
The Wildcats are set to lose four of their players to graduation — seniors Casey Bucy, Lauren Siniard, Solomon and Michaels.