That scenario has come to fruition as the Purple Hurricanes and Wolves are set to tip off tonight at 7 p.m. at Buford High.
“The keys to me are to, once again, play great defense and play as a team,” Cartersville head coach Mike Tobin said. “If we play 32 minutes of intensity and great defense like we did against St. Pius, we’ll have a shot.”
Cartersville is coming off a 59-40 victory over St. Pius in the second round Saturday at Cartersville High. However, the Canes will face a tougher opponent tonight on the road.
Buford went 26-5 this season and a perfect 14-0 in region play. The Wolves feature 6-foot-8 Connecticut commit Rakim Lubin.
“He’s a monster, and obviously, Nick Harris with St. Pius is a big kid, but [Lubin] is an animal. He’s a lot bigger and stronger,” Tobin said. “He’s a legitimate 200 pounds and he’s muscular. We have our hands full.”
Because of Lubin, Cartersville will have to concentrate on its interior defense and defensive rebounding.
Buford has another player who has been offered a scholarship, sophomore 6-4 wing D’Marcus Simonds, who already holds an offer from Mississippi State.
“Simonds is more of a slasher,” Tobin said. “He can shoot it, but he’s more of a threat to drive. He would much rather penetrate and pull up.”
Senior point guard Matt McMorris is the best passer of the bunch, and has smooth ball handling skills and court vision. He also serves as the team’s best defender.
McMorris flirted with a quadruple-double with 10 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and six steals earlier this season against Southwest Atlanta Christian. He also had 30 points and eight assists against Banks County.
“He’s real smooth,” Tobin said of McMorris. “He does a good job of getting it up the floor in transition. We obviously have to make sure we get back and make sure we makes things as difficult as we can. They like to throw ally-oops to [Lubin]. Obviously, we have to do everything in our power to stand them up.”
Despite all the team’s talent, Buford is not as skilled of a shooting team as opponents Cartersville has already faced.
“They have a couple of kids who can shoot it, but compared to White County and St. Pius, [Cartersville’s opponents in the first two rounds], they’re not as much of a perimeter shooting team,” Tobin said.
At this stage in the tournament, each team has its opponent scouted. However, one advantage Cartersville has is its balance, preventing Buford from keying in on any specific player.
“We just don’t have two guys that can score. We have four or five guys that can get you 20 points,” Tobin said. “A.J. [Mosby] has had three or four rock solid games in a row and I’m sure their gameplan is [to stop Ryan] Davis and [Corey] Tobin, but we have three rock solid guys.”
Mosby has played particularly well of late, averaging over 22 points per game in the team’s four playoff games.
Ultimately, tonight’s game is one between two teams that have gone a combined 53-7 during the regular season. Cartersville boasts a balanced, senior-laden roster, while Buford brings the star power.