As a result, Cartersville is desperate for some competition, and was hoping to receive some when head coach Mike Tobin scheduled AAAAAA power Milton for the last game of the season.
Milton backed out of the game, leaving Tobin scrambling to find a tough opponent before the region tournament. He found Fulton Leadership Academy, who featured a young and talented roster, highlighted by 6-foot-9 Wendell Carter, one of the highest-rated freshmen in the country.
Unfortunately for the Purple Hurricanes, FLA did not provide the close game they were looking for to prepare for the playoffs.
Fortunately, Cartersville passed its final test before the playoffs with flying colors and defeated FLA 100-70 Saturday afternoon at the Storm Center.
“They were fired up about this team because of the 6-9 kid,” Tobin said of his team. “We’re really trying to play some good competition and these guys had some decent talent but I thought we did a good job.”
Cartersville left little doubt who the superior team was in the early going as the Canes stormed out to a 16-2 lead three minutes into the game.
It was apparent the Cartersville players were prepared for a tough test and came out with energy. The fact that Cartersville made four 3s in the first three minutes did not hurt. Corey Tobin began the game with two 3s in the first two possessions of the game. A.J. Mosby then followed with two more.
Tobin then finished the first quarter with another 3 and Cartersville led by a score of 27-12 after the first period.
The offense continued to put up points in the second quarter. Ryan Davis was a big reason why as the senior point guard used his strength advantage to get to the rim and scored seven consecutive points for Cartersville during a two-minute stretch. He had 14 points and three rebounds in the second quarter.
Meanwhile, Tobin continued his sharp play and finished the first half with 18 points.
Cartersville led 55-36 at halftime. The high score was indicative of the fast pace and scoring prowess the Canes have utilized all season long.
“We have so much speed on this team that we want to go,” Tobin said. “A.J. flies down the floor, Ryan, Mark Quattlebaum and Devin [Henderson], so there’s a lot of speed.”
“Oh yeah, I love it,” Davis said of the fast pace. “It’s just an easier flow. I was just attacking because it was an up-and-down game, so I just took my chances and got to the rim.”
Despite the fast pace, Cartersville was able to hunker down on defense in the second half. Senior forward Hunter Benham had much to do with the defense and held FLA’s Carter in check.
Giving up eight inches, Benham allowed just one rebound to Carter in the second half.
“What’s so nice about our team is Hunter, he’s undersized, but he likes contact,” Mike Tobin said. “He was frustrating the big kid like crazy. He’s not going to back down.”
Benham also had a big game himself, finishing with 16 points and 15 rebounds.
His defense helped Cartersville hold FLA to 12 third-quarter points and Cartersville opened up its lead to 76-48 entering the fourth quarter.
In the second half, the Canes continued to exhibit the ball movement on offense that has come to define the team under Tobin. There were five occasions in the third quarter when a Cartersville player made the extra pass resulting in a basket. The run began when Christian Demastus hit Davis for an open corner 3-pointer. The very next possession, Bryce Gober had an open shot, but passed it up to Benham who converted on a layup. The next two possessions saw Davis push the tempo, get into the lane and dish to Benham for two more points.
“That’s exactly what we told them after the game, it’s so nice when a lot of guys had decent shots, but made that extra pass,” Mike Tobin said. “That’s the sign of a good team. We have a lot of unselfish guys. They’ve been doing it for two years now. A lot of guys have teams that have some decent talent but they’re selfish. We’ve been that way for two years and it says a lot about the kids.”
The unselfish play was most evidenced by Gober, who was filling in off the bench at point guard for Henderson. Henderson did not play in the game because of a high ankle sprain, which he says will not keep him out very long. Gober filled in admirably with five assists in the second half, seven for the game.
Davis also displayed his court vision with six assists in the second half, 10 in the game, and had some extra motivation because of the hightened level of competition.
“I heard he was one of the top players in the nation in his class, so I just wanted to prove that we could hang with them,” Davis said of Carter. “That’s all I’ve been wanting to do my whole life. I like the intensity [of the big games]. You have to beat the best to be the best.”
Davis finished with 27 points and eight rebounds, two shy of his second triple-double of the season.
Corey Tobin was not needed as much in the second half with Cartersville running away from FLA, but did finish with 23 points in the game.
Cartersville now heads to the region tournament where the team is the top seed and has a bye in each of the first two rounds as well as homecourt advantage. The first game will be Friday at 8:30 p.m. Based on the tournament’s seeding, Adairsville is the favorite to reach Friday’s game and play against Cartersville.
Adairsville 58, Coahulla Creek 40
Adairsville had already cemented itself as the fourth seed in the Region 5-AAA tournament, which begins Wednesday.
However, the Tigers will now go into the playoffs riding some momentum with a victory as they defeated Coahulla Creek Saturday afternoon at home.
“The kids played hard, but could not score for the first two quarters. However, I am very proud of them for battling through a tough night offensively and finishing the regular season with a win,” Adairsville head coach Kent Howard said.
Senior post player Sammie Frazier had nine points and 23 rebounds in the game. Dametrices Pitt also had an impressive performance, posting a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Senior guard Tyler Washington was the leading scorer for the Tigers with 11.
Adairsville will now move on to the region tournament after posting an 8-6 region record during the regular season. The Tigers have a first-round bye and will face the winner of North Murray and Gordon Central on Thursday. North Murray is 6-8 in region play while Gordon Central is 0-14.