However, after Monday’s 63-59 victory over top-seeded Northwest Whitfield in the Region 7-AAAA tournament, Cass has qualified for the semifinals and a place in the state tournament
“I asked those kids in the [locker room after the game], ‘When we were 0-8 in December, who gave us a chance?’ They kept working hard, their attitudes were great and they did everything we asked them to do,” Cass head coach Greg Scott said. “We told them, if they worked hard, good things would happen to them and here we are."
Northwest had defeated Cass back on Dec. 6 by 38 points, and after posting the best record in their sub-region, the Bruins are now knocked out of state playoff contention.
“I think our kids were embarrassed when we lost to them in December. It was a 2-point game after the first quarter and it turned into a 38-point loss and we’re so much better since that point,” Scott said. “When we knock down some shots, we’re not that big, but with our athleticism, we can go with pretty much anybody on our schedule.”
Cass stormed out to an early lead thanks to some hot shooting in the first quarter. Jordan Morning and Jordan Cothron hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Cass a double-digit lead five minutes into the game. Northwest went on a 4-0 run in the next three minutes of the quarter, but Morning hit a 30-foot buzzer-beating 3 to take an 11-point lead and energize the Colonels’ bench.
Cass finished the first quarter shooting 9-for-16 from the field to Northwest’s 4-for-13. As a result, the score at the end of the first was 21-10
One of the reasons for the lead was Cass’ defensive strategy. The Colonels used a 2-2-1 full-court press defense and went back into a 2-3 zone in the halfcourt.
“We were pretty active tonight on defense in our zone. It’s been a long time since we played 2-3 zone for the entire game,” Scott said. “We wanted to try to slow them down some. Even though we want to run, we didn’t want it to be a racehorse game because they have several guys who can convert in transition. We pressed them and we told our kids, ‘We’re not going for steals. We just want to make them look and throw around.’”
Northwest would respond in the second quarter, get back into the game, and even take the lead with a little over one minute left in the half. Cass then forced two turnovers and scored two transition baskets to take a 34-33 advantage into the locker room.
“We outrebounded them in the first quarter by six, I think, and had a good lead,” Scott said. “They outrebounded us by five in the second quarter and got back in it.”
Cass would once again bring its lead up to double digits in the third period with a strong start to the second half.
Morning and Cothron once again hit back-to-back 3s and each had five points in the period. Cass’ defense also was strong, forcing Northwest into six third-quarter turnovers.
Meanwhile, Cass only had two turnovers in the third quarter despite a trapping press in the fullcourt and aggressive 1-3-1 zone defense in the halfcourt.
“We told the kids we had to outrebound them and we did. We told them we had to handle the pressure when they run and jump, and when they went to the 1-3-1, and we did,” Scott said.
Cass led 53-44 entering the fourth quarter but Northwest would make another run and closed the gap to two points with over two minutes remaining in the game.
“They did a great job of coming back on us,” Scott said. “We knew they were going to make a run. We just told our kids, ‘If we just hold onto the ball, we’ll get easy opportunities to score. If we make some free throws and easy shots on our end, we’ll have a chance.’”
Cass did make some easy shots but did not shoot well from the free throw line. The Colonels missed four consecutive free throw attempts at one point in the period.
However, the defense would come up big for Cass once again and prohibit Northwest from capitalizing on those missed free throws. Chavez Hendrix knocked the ball away from a Northwest ballhandler with Cass up two and 30 seconds remaining. Cass would miss both free throws on the ensuing possession, but would get it back when Morning knocked the ball away on Northwest’s next possession. The ball fell to Cothron who threw it ahead to a streaking Morning to go up four points with eight seconds left and ice the game.
“I think it’s got to rank up there as one of our best [games] from start to finish,” Scott said. “We played a pretty complete game. Everybody did kind of what we needed them to. We had some people get some rebounds. We came up with some loose balls, big steals and hit some big shots.”
Morning led the way for Cass with 17, while Cothron had 13. Point guard Kelin Wells also did well in handling the press and scored nine points to go along with five rebounds and five assists.
The Colonels will advance to the semifinal round today and take on Gilmer at Cass High at 5:30 p.m.
Cartersville 73, North Murray 35
The Cartersville boys basketball team had a nine-day layoff between its last regular season game and its first playoff game Monday.
Therefore, the Purple Hurricanes were more than ready to take the court against North Murray in the 5-AAA region tournament and proved it by jumping out to an early lead and holding on for the lopsided victory.
Cartersville jumped out to 29-5 advantage in the first quarter. The Canes dropped back into a 2-3 zone defense on their first defensive possession of the game. North Murray responded by holding the ball near halfcourt and stalling.
Cartersville head coach Mike Tobin was forced to switch to a man-to-man defense and the move payed immediate dividends. North Murray turned the ball over three consecutive possessions and the Canes were able to turn the turnovers into points.
Ryan Davis finished the first quarter with nine points and each of Cartersville’s starters scored in the period.
The second quarter proved to be more of the same for North Murray, who shot 5-for-18 to go along with 14 turnovers in the first half.
A.J. Mosby’s nine-point quarter helped give the Canes a 30-point lead by halftime. They were able to cruise frome there as Mosby finished with 23 points and Hunter Benham produced a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Cartersville will move on to the region championship game today at home against Ringgold at 8:30 p.m.