When she's on the court, there are few girls with the physical presence of Cartersville senior London Shaw. The problem is that during a good chunk of her career, Shaw has often been relegated to a spot on the Canes bench.
It was never for a lack of hustle. If anything, it was caused by being too energetic on the floor. Shaw had a bad habit of picking up fouls by going over the back of her opponents when trying to secure offensive rebounds. She had a worse habit of boxing out girls too early when they went up for a shot.
Needless to say, her propensity for getting into foul trouble kept the 6-footer on the sideline more often than not. However, this season Shaw has been much improved in that area, and it's allowed her to put together some fantastic games.
Her latest double-double — a 16-point, 10-rebound performance — allowed Cartersville to earn a much-needed 50-44 home win over LaGrange Tuesday at The Storm Center.
"I do think London is playing the best basketball of her career," Canes head coach Cindy Moore said. "She is a factor. Offensively, if we don't get it to her, she's right there for the offensive rebound. She's become a lot more disciplined about not going over the back and keeping the ball high."
Shaw's stellar outing and a solid contribution on the interior from Lehla Thomas, who added seven points and 10 rebounds, helped Cartersville snap a two-game losing skid to begin Region 5-AAAA action.
The Canes (8-6, 1-2) had suffered a pair of crushing defeats recently, including an absolute heartbreaker in overtime against Central-Carroll in their most recent game. Being able to hold on Tuesday seemed to give the entire program a huge sigh of relief.
"The biggest thing with this one is that we did come out on the winning side," Moore said. "I really think they were playing [in previous games] to try to not make a mistake. ... Obviously, we've learned some things."
Cartersville used a typical suffocating defensive effort to take a 20-16 lead into halftime after holding a narrow 8-6 edge after one quarter.
"We tried to mix it up a little bit," Moore said of her defense. "We've gotten away from pressing the last few games. It helps us keep our composure."
After having made a few key plays during the first half, Shaw completely dominated the third quarter. LaGrange (8-8. 0-3) had no answer for Shaw, a top-eight finisher in the Class 4A shot put and discus last spring, as she piled up eight points in the period.
The only thing that kept the Grangers in the contest was the 3-point shooting ability of Zaria Russell. The senior knocked down four 3-pointers, including three in the third quarter, and had 16 points in the game.
With both offenses clicking, Cartersville took a 36-32 lead into the final period. While LaGrange managed to cut the deficit to one point on multiple ocassions, the Canes never let the Grangers tie or take the lead late. In fact, Cartersville trailed by a 5-4 margin in the first quarter but led the rest of the game.
With the Canes clinging to a 46-44 lead, senior A'mya Davis calmly sank four free throws in the final 12.1 seconds to seal the win. They were Davis' only points of the game, but they were massive.
"In the first half, I thought our post game was better than theirs," Moore said. "That was a factor. We got a lot of good looks inside, and we hit some shots down the stretch.
"Like we said on Saturday, you have to make plays down the stretch. Most of the time, it was what we needed. We still have some learning to do, but we'll take it. It was a good region win."
After finally making the necessary plays to earn a coveted win, Cartersville will face the presumptive region favorite, Sandy Creek, on the road Friday. While a trip to Tyrone is never easy, Moore knows it's much better to enter that game coming off a victory.
"They're going to be a test at their place," Moore said of the Patriots. "It feels much better going in with a win instead of going in with a little bit of a losing streak."