Before tipoff of Cartersville's boys basketball game against LaGrange on Tuesday, Canes head coach Mike Tobin was presented with a game ball, commemorating his 500th career win.
His team then went out and helped Tobin secure No. 503, as Cartersville overcame a hot-shooting LaGrange team for a 73-66 Region 5-AAAA victory inside The Storm Center.
Tobin reached the historic mark in a Dec. 29 win over Chattooga. The Canes have gone 3-1 since that time, making Tobin's career record 503-202, good enough for a 71.3 winning percentage. He has 142 wins against just 43 losses in his seven seasons with the Canes, while adding 184 career wins at Eden Prairie (Minnesota) and 177 at Woodland.
"It was super nice of them to do that," Tobin said of receiving the commemorative ball adorned with the game info from his historic victory.
Even more special to Tobin, though, is the new banner he has hanging in his office. A gift from his wife, Cindy, it includes the names of every player Tobin has coached during his career, which began in 1992.
"It's fun to look back," Tobin said. "A lot of those kids have kids now. It's fun to look at that. I love the fact to be able to see these kids when they come back and they're successful and have good jobs. It's cool."
What wasn't cool was the way LaGrange started Tuesday's game shooting from deep. D.J. Burks knocked down a trio of 3-pointers in the first quarter to force Tobin to switch from a zone to man-to-man.
"[According to] the scouting report, the last two games, they had six total 3s," Tobin said. "These guys [supposedly] aren't very good shooters. Kid hits three 3s right away."
Cartersville (8-7, 2-1) countered with long-range shots of its own. The Canes had four players hit one triple apiece in the first quarter to give the home team a narrow 18-16 lead.
Cartersville seniors Perignon Dyer and Isaac Gridley had seven points apiece in the second quarter. Gridley, who started for the first time after returning from injury in the team's most recent game, nailed a halfcourt buzzer-beater for a 35-25 halftime lead.
Jordan Ogletree and Vondez Taylor started to heat up for LaGrange (10-6, 2-1) in the third quarter. Ogletree had seven of his 10 points in the period, and Taylor drilled a pair of shots beyond the arc.
Even still, Cartersville held a 52-44 advantage after three quarters. The Grangers trimmed the deficit to five points at one juncture of the final period, but 12 fourth-quarter points by Kolbe Benham helped the Canes hold on for the win.
"Even though we did turn it over, we're doing a lot better job looking to pass instead of dribbling all the time," Tobin said. "I think we would have had a lot more turnovers if we had been trying to dribble. We were more patient, trying to attack and reverse it."
He added, "I think we moved the ball real well. We had a lot of easy baskets, because they were gambling and trapping. ... When you get teams like that, if you play smart, you get a lot of easy baskets."
Dyer, Benham and Gridley were the primary beneficiaries of the easy buckets, although they certainly earned a lot of their points, finishing with 18, 16 and 15 points, respectively.
The victory moves Cartersville level with LaGrange, which had four players reach double-figures led by Taylor's 18, in the standings at this point in the region schedule. While the Canes currently hold the head-to-head tiebreaker, the Grangers will host Cartersville on Jan. 25.
With a tough road game against Sandy Creek next up, Tobin was thrilled to be able to enter that game with a 2-1 region record, especially with a pair of home wins.
"In this region, you have to take care of home court," he said. "It's so important. You can't afford to lose a game at home and still think you'll be a No. 1 or 2 seed."