Both Tobin and Parr would like nothing more than to see their defense shine in the “Sweet 16” state playoff game scheduled for Saturday night at the Storm Center.
The Purple Hurricanes (28-1 and the No. 1 seed from Region 5-AAA) and the Golden Lions (21-8 and the No. 3 seed out of Region 6-AAA) pride themselves on holding teams to 40 points or less.
“Defense is what we hang our hat on,” St. Pius coach Aaron Parr said. “We are a grind-it-out team who will be playing a Cartersville team which likes to push the ball up the court. They [the Purple Hurricanes] average 71 points on offense, while we average 38 points on defense. It’s going to be interesting to see what type of tempo is played Saturday.”
St. Pius defeated McNair, 40-29, Cedar Grove, 49-47, before losing to Woodward Academy, 47-45, in the finals of the Region 6-AAA tournament. The Golden Lions defeated East Hall, 47-45, in their first-round state playoff game when the Indians missed a potential, game-tying basket at the buzzer. The last time St. Pius scored more than 40 points was in its 64-62 overtime loss to the Excel Eagles back in late January.
“Unlike Elbert County, a team that likes to run and gamble on defense, St. Pius is a team that is well-disciplined offensively and plays great defense,” Tobin said. “I doubt you will see a repeat of what transpired at the Storm Center Wednesday.”
What transpired Wednesday night was Cartersville’s offense topping the century mark in its 103-74 win over the Blue Devils. Although happy with the win, Tobin was quick to voice his displeasure on how the Canes were man-handled on the offensive boards.
“They [the Blue Devils] killed us with their offensive rebounding,” Tobin said. “We have got to do a better job of boxing out if we want to defeat St. Pius.”
Boxing out, or better yet, the lack of, could very well pose a major threat to Cartersville’s state playoff run as forward T.L. Ford and guard Corey Tobin, who are both 6-5, are the Canes tallest players. Center Alex Christina is listed at 6-2, but he is only a sophomore and is a recent addition to the roster. St. Pius’ offensive weaponry includes Nick Harris, a 6-9, forward,, and 6-2 guard Will Maguire, who scored 26 points against Excel. The Eagles limited Harris to just 11 points by stone-walling his penetration at the free throw line.
Tobin’s knowledge of St. Pius’ strengths and weaknesses continues to grow with each game film watched by the Canes’ coaching staff and players alike. The Canes will have heavily-critiqued five of those game films before taking the court at 7 p.m.
An emerging strength for the Canes has been the unselfish play of their starters and the solid contribution provided by their six-man bench.
“Corey [Tobin], Ryan [Davis] and A.J. [Mosby] have the talent to score more than 20 points per game,” Tobin said. “Yet, those three average close to 15 points per game. That tells you something about the character of these players and the chemistry that exists within our team.”
While Mosby scored a team-high 20 points and Davis added 19 in the Canes’ win over Elbert County, Tobin was quick to praise the contributions of junior Hunter Benham and sophomores Zack Hacker and Bryce Gober.
Coming off the bench Gober, who has been out more than month due to a concussion, and Hacker each scored six points, Benham and Hakeem Winters had 14 points apiece.
“I have the utmost confidence in all of our players,” Tobin said. “Our practices have been great the past two weeks. Now it’s time to play our type of game once again, and be happy that we are hosting another state playoff game.”
The Cartersville-St. Pius X winner plays the winner of North Hall-Morgan County.
On the other side of the bracket, it is Gordon Central at Buford and North Murray at Woodward Academy.