Therefore, the two Bartow County teams have their work cut out for them today as Cartersville hosts White County at 7:30 p.m. and Cass travels to take on Alexander at 7 p.m.
Canes hosts White County
Cartersville has not played in a close game since its Dec. 30 victory over Carrollton.
White County, the fourth seed out of Region 7, is capable of giving Cartersville a test in the first round.
“The East Hall coach told me they could have very easily been the one or two seed coming out of that region,” Cartersville head coach Mike Tobin said of White County’s team. “It’s a tough region. You got Buford in there and Dawson County is rock solid. Like I told the guys, what it comes down to is who plays well tomorrow. One thing that’s not going to happen is we’re not going to get outhustled, but it’s going to be tought the rest of the way.”
White County is 17-10 this season, including playoffs, and recently lost by just eight points to Buford, one of the top teams in the state.
White County is somewhat similar to Cartersville, especially in regard to its point guard play. Senior Spencer Adams is 6-foot-4, athletic and is a highly-touted pro baseball prospect. Adams shares some similar traits to Cartersville point guard Ryan Davis as they are each tall and athletic lead guards. Like Davis, Adams will try to penetrate the defense and can finish at the rim.
Adams’ attacking style allows him to get into the paint and kick to shooters, something that White County has plenty of. Senior Jordan Egerton made five 3s in the region semifinal against Buford. No. 23 Trey Thomas is one of four senior starters and can shoot as well.
“They’ve got all kinds of shooters,” Tobin said. “What they do so well is they penetrate and kick to the corners. What they read is the help, so as soon as you help, they kick it out to one of their shooters.”
Another way White County is similar to Cartersville is its post play. Adairsville football fans will remember Dalton Whitfield who was the fullback for White County in its victory over the Tigers’ in the first round of the state playoffs. Whitfield brings his size, strength and toughness to the hardwood.
Cartersville’s Hunter Benham may not carry the same bulk around with him, but Benham’s own physicality and toughness will help the Canes stay ahead in the rebounding battle.
“Those are two warriors right there,” Tobin said of the matchup between Whitfield and Benham. “Hunter is not going to back down and that kid’s not going to back down. They are very similar.”
Although Cartersville is the higher-seeded team, White County will present a challenge in the first round. One bit of advice Tobin gave his team during Thursday’s practice was to not let the pressure of the playoff environment distract them.
“I told them, and I sincerely meant it, they had an incredible season. They had an incredible regular season and an incredible region playoffs. This is just another page in the season. I don’t want them coming in feeling there’s stress or pressure. I want them coming in with total confidence, and whoever wins, wins,” Tobin said. “ When I see teams struggle, it’s when they get nervous and when they get outhustled. There’s no reason to stress. This should be a fun, exciting time for them.”
Cass plays top-ranked Alexander
It would be hard to find a Georgia high school basketball poll that does not have Alexander ranked amongst the top two or three teams in Class AAAA.
Unfortunately for Cass, Alexander so happens to be its first-round opponent tonight at Alexander High.
“They are super athletic. They like to pressure the ball up and down the floor,” Cass head coach Greg Scott said. “Our seniors were not ready to be done last week and I think there’s 86 teams in AAAA this year. There’s probably 50 some-odd teams that wish they could trade places with us and play in the state tournament.
“We’re going to go and compete and see what happens. That’s all we’ve asked the kids to do all along. We’re going to ask them to compete again tomorrow night.”
After an 0-8 start, Cass managed to post an 11-10 record in the last 21 games of the year, including an upset victory over top-seeded Northwest Whitfield in the region tournament. The win propelled the Colonels into the state tournament, where they will meet one of the top teams in Class AAAA.
Alexander went 22-3 this season and 14-0 in Region 5 to earn the top seed. The team’s top scorer is Hassani Gravett, who is committed to play his college ball at Gardner Webb.
“He shoots it from deep and can take it to the rim,” Scott said of Gravett. “He can do it all. He’s about 6-1, 6-2, but he’s a player.”
Artavius Love and Yuseff Carpenter give Alexander some perimeter shooting to go along with the team’s athleticism and its post player, 6-foot-6 Jermaine Carpenter.
“I think we need to be concerned with how they shoot the ball,” Scott said. “They’ve got a big kid inside. He’s long and thin and lean. He’s not a big offensive threat, but he’s a rebounder, shot blocker and things like that.”
With such a long and athletic team, Cass will need to be able to handle Alexander’s pressure while limiting turnovers.
“I am concerned about the pressure. I feel like, if we handle the pressure, we’ll get shots. They give the type of pressure that we can’t simulate in practice. We don’t have the quickness. We don’t have the length that they have. We don’t have the speed that they have,” Scott said. “If we can weather the storm in the first quarter without getting blitzed and without turning the ball over in places for them to score, I feel like we can hang in there, but I think we have to get through it early.”