Kaelyn Irby scored 11 points to pace the Lady Purple Hurricanes, who were unable to make enough outside shots to make the run in the state playoffs that the senior-laden team had been pointing to all season.
Head coach Cindy Moore said the team simply did not do what it needed to win.
“We had many opportunities and we could not finish,” Moore said. “We were at the 3-point line in a close game and we did not make enough.”
Cartersville hit just two treys — one by Madison McKinney and the second by Irby — both in the second half.
The Lady Canes also were victimized by turnovers during inside play.
“We tried to pressure them in the first half and get the game uptempo a little bit,” Moore said. “We had opportunities to score and they blocked shots because we didn’t handle their presence inside.
“Their presence inside was a factor in the first half and our missed opportunities was a factor in the second half.”
The Lady Canes came out firing early in the contest, scoring the game’s first two points on free throws when Kimora McClinic was fouled in the act of shooting a short jump shot just under a minute into the contest.
Maya Jones scored a bucket in the paint — off an assist by Irby — and seconds later slipped a second 2-pointer through the net to give Cartersville a 6-2 lead. Dawson County answered with a 3-pointer at the 4:54 mark and then took the lead with a deuce and stretched the differential by a second trey for a 10-6 lead.
The two teams finished the period with a 6-6 run as the visitors held a 16-12 lead at the start of the second quarter.
A 10-8 run pulled Cartersville to 24-22 with about 2.5 minutes left in the period.
Dawson capped the frame with a 7-3 run and went into halftime with a 31-25 lead.
The Lady Canes made another big run at Dawson to start the third quarter after the Lady Tigers opened with a deuce for a 33-25 lead.
Irby dropped a bucket and Maya Jones completed a three-point play the old-fashioned way and the Lady Canes trailed, 33-30. Cartersville scored seven points — one McKinney’s trey — while allowing four and tied the game at 37-all after Irby took a stolen ball coast-to-coast for a layup.
Dawson County responded with a 7-2 run and held a 44-39 lead after three full quarters of play.
Cartersville used a 6-4 run to close to 48-45 about the midway point of the final quarter but Dawson County reeled off seven unanswered points for a 55-45 lead. Both teams added three more points to close scoring out.
Moore said Dawson County is a solid team that played up to its abilities.
“They’ve got three good players and we knew that,” she said. “Those three players did what they had to do for Dawson County to win and we didn’t. It’s disappointing. We had a great season.
“You win 22 ballgames and that’s nothing to hang your head about, but it’s obviously disappointing because we really felt like with this group we had a chance to make a run.
“You end the season with two losses and it’s rough.”
She praised the work by her seniors because of their success on and off the court.
“They’ve done a great job,” she said. “They’ve left a mark. They are going to be hard to replace just because they are quality kids. Basketball is one thing and they’ve done a good job at that. But they’ve also been good representatives of the school and good influences on our younger ones. I hate it for them more than me. For the seniors, this is hard to swallow.
“I don’t think any of them would tell you these last two games have been their best.
“Dawson County is a quality program. They played for the state championship last year. They handled the situation. They hit shots when they had to. They played defense inside and bothered us.
“We never looked comfortable. We never looked like we were in a flow.”
“It wasn’t our night, but that’s basketball. Unfortunately we don’t have another game to make you feel better about it. This one will stick with us for a while.”
Other leading scorers for Cartersville were Maya Jones, 9; McKinney, 8; and McClinic, 5.
Cartersville closes its season with a 22-5 record.
Dawson improved to 20-9 with the victory and it now advances to the next round of the state playoffs.