Cass girls handle Cartersville in 1st meeting since 2016
RANDY PARKER/THE DAILY TRIBUNE NEWS
Posted Sunday, December 29, 2019
The intensity surrounding Saturday’s matchup between the girls basketball teams from Cass and Cartersville was much stronger than a typical tournament semifinal. Frankly, the atmosphere was more intense than most championship games.
That’s how much the renewal of a fierce rivalry means in Bartow County. It doesn’t even matter if it happens to come on a neutral court in Adairsville.
It had been three years ago to the day — Dec. 28, 2016 — since the programs had last met. That meeting was also in a tournament, as the Colonels downed the Canes 50-34 in the Chattooga Christmas Classic.
History repeated itself Saturday, with Cass pulling away for a 63-48 victory to advance to the AHS Tiger Christmas Clash title game.
“You could tell the girls knew this was Cartersville,” Colonels head coach Burt Jackson said. “It’s been three years since we’ve played them, but this is a rivalry that used to be standing room only. Fire marshals used to have to send people away. That’s how crowded it used to be.
“They know each other. They’re like best friends. I know my girls and their girls were cheering each other on [Friday], because they wanted to play [each other] in this game.”
In fact, Jackson said his players had been looking forward to the possibility of facing the Canes since the tournament bracket was released.
At that point, the chances of the teams meeting appeared strong. And even though North Cobb Christian and LaFayette proved worthy first-round opponents, the possibility of pitting the schools separated by roughly 10 miles for a berth in the finals was just too enticing for the basketball gods to pass up.
“Our girls have been talking about this potential matchup since the start of the season,” Jackson said. “When we saw the bracket and saw we could meet in the semifinals, the girls have talked about, ‘Coach, we might get to play Cartersville.’
“The girls have missed it. I think the community has missed it.”
Well, the community got a refresher Saturday on just how desperately fans want to see the two schools meet on the hardwood.
It works out nicely then that Cartersville and Cass will be forced to meet at least twice in each of the next two seasons, because the GHSA realignment has both programs joining Woodland, Calhoun, Hiram and Blessed Trinity in Region 7-AAAAA, beginning with the 2020-21 school year.
“That’s going to be an exciting region,” Canes head coach Cindy Moore said. “First of all, the travel is going to be great. That kind of intense back-and-forth game for the next two years will be good for Bartow County, good for us and good for Cass. …
“We’re looking forward to the future. It should be some good games down the road. I wish them success. I think we’ll get better from this and have a run in the region tournament, which is our goal.”
Before jumping into Region 5-AAAA action, Cartersville will a chance to take home third place in a tournament for the second time this season, when it faces host Adairsville at 4 p.m. Monday.
Cass will face Trion for the championship at 7 p.m. that night.
“I feel like we’re starting to roll as a team,” Jackson said. “I believe that’s our fifth consecutive win but our fourth consecutive over a team with a winning record. …
“We needed this. There’s been some people saying we haven’t really played anybody in our wins, so it’s nice to be able to say the last four teams have been teams with winning records.”
In Saturday’s semifinal, both teams definitely had some early game jitters.
Neither side scored until Cartersville’s Naijah Evans hit a pair of free throws nearly two-and-a-half minutes in. Cass didn’t score until an Ariana Hames 3-pointer at the 4:10 mark, but the bucket kicked off a 9-0 run.
Following Hames’ trey, Londaisha Smith had the next 10 points for the Colonels (11-4). The junior connected from deep and also converted a traditional 3-point play. After a quick burst pulled the Canes (6-5) within 13-8, Hames capped the opening period with a 3 in the final seconds.
With Smith in foul trouble, Claire Davis, Taryn Callahan and Amaya Ford each had five points in the second quarter to stretch the Cass lead to 31-17 by halftime.
Davis continued her strong play in the third quarter with six points, but Cartersville refused to go quietly, managing to edge back within 43-32 entering the final period. Evans led the charge with five points in the quarter.
Cass started the final stanza on a 12-3 run to earn some breathing space.
Jada Cunningham and Lehla Thomas tried to rally Cartersville, but every time the Canes would make a run, the Colonels had an answer. Oftentimes it was Smith, who had nine of her 21 points over the final eight minutes.
“They hit some big shots that kept us from closing that gap, but we turned the ball over in the middle of the floor too much,” Moore said. “When you do that, it’s layups for them. It’s hard to cut into the lead when you’re doing that. I give them credit. They hit the shots; they did what they needed to do.
“We’re going to be better for having played them. We haven’t played a team that presses us like that — the half-court, three-quarter court. We’re going to see that in the region, so to be able to see that before region starts next week, we’re going to get better. We got a lot of kids great experience.”
For Cass, Davis scored 13 points, and Hames chipped in with eight. Evans and Thomas each scored nine points, while Cunningham added eight to lead Cartersville.
In total, 19 players saw playing time. Seventeen of them scored, including all 10 Canes to see the court. It was clear that every player who entered the game wanted to make an immediate impact.
“You could tell, it just means something more, and it does,” Moore said. “You want to be the best in the county — in any sport — and certainly, that’s our goal.
“Down the road, when we’re in the same region as them and Woodland, it’s going to be some battles.”