The Colonels were able to come through with a 53-49 victory thanks to a Jordan Morning go-ahead shot in the final minute to move on to the second round and play Northwest Whitfield Monday with a chance to qualify for the state tournament.
“We haven’t played a game in 10 days, and in that 10 days, we’ve had three practices, I think. To come back today and get a win after laying off for that long is pretty big,” Cass head coach Greg Scott said. “It’s our 10th win for a group that started 0-8, so they’re 10-8 since then.”
Morning was the hero for Cass as the senior hit a running fade-away jumper with 38 seconds remaining to give the Colonels a 50-49 edge.
“I definitely thought I was going to make any shot that I put up,” Morning said. “I was hot in the first half and I just knew that if I shot it like I usually do, it has a shot to go in.”
Despite make just three of nine free throws in the final 30 seconds of the game, Cass was able to hold on due to some timely offensive rebounds by seniors Jordan Reed and Keylon Woodard, who each rebounded missed free throws to give Cass another chance to put the game away.
Kelin Wells also forced a crucial turnover with 14 seconds remaining to ruin Southeast’s attempt at the win.
“It was closer than it should have been,” Scott said. “Obviously, missed free throws at the end and we had a chance to ice the game two or three times at the free throw line and we didn’t do it. We were fortunate we got those [offensive rebounds]. We were tied in rebounds at halftime and we told the kids we had to outrebound them in the second half, so those two after thee free throws were big.”
Cass made the plays down the stretch it needed to win, but the game was close throughout.
Morning scored the first nine Cass points in the first quarter to keep his team in the game. As a result, Southeast led by a score of 16-13 at the end of the first quarter.
Morning was able to penetrate into the seams of Southeast’s 1-3-1 zone defense and create shots for himself and others to help the Colonels make a run late in the first and into the second quarter.
“Usually, you’re supposed to have someone flashing into the middle, but sometimes we didn’t, so I was just trying to attack and kick out whenever I could,” Morning said.
“I thought there was a couple of times when our kids got a little frustrated today because our kids couldn’t tell if they were in a matchup zone or a true man. They played some 1-3-1 zone in the first half but they weren’t real sure what they were doing. We called some stuff out there and they still weren’t sold on what they were doing,” Scott said. “We held steady and we had been telling Jordan the lane was open all day and he started taking it.”
Cass was able to take the lead at the end of the second period thanks to forcing three consecutive turnovers in Southeast’s last four possessions of the half. The defense of the Colonels forced seven second-quarter turnovers, which led to a 29-26 halftime lead.
Cass rode that momentum into the third quarter and went on a 6-0 run to start the half thanks to 3s by Wells and Jordan Cothron and extended its lead to 41-32 with three minutes remaining in the third quarter. The Colonels then experienced a three-minute scoring drought and Southeast whittled the lead down to five entering the fourth quarter.
A 7-0 run by Southeast in the fourth allowed the Raiders to take a 47-46 lead with just two minutes left in the game.
“We probably took a couple of shots in the fourth quarter that were a little rushed that we shouldn’t have taken,” Scott said.
The two teams then went back and forth with Reed scoring Cass’ next four points.
After Southeast’s Ty Pendley made one of two free throws to take a one-point lead, Morning hit the clutch shot to win the game.
“It was real big,” Scott said of Morning’s shot. “Jordan Morning has been steady for us all year long and he was steady for us today.”
Morning finished with 20 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals in the game.
Reed finished with eight points and 10 rebounds.
Cass will move on to play the top seed in sub-region B, Northwest Whitfield, Monday at 5:30 p.m. in Cass’ gym.
“We have a tough one Monday night. Northwest is very talented. They’re going to pressure us a lot. They have a good post player inside and they have a couple of kids that can stroke the ball,” Scott said. “They’re a pretty veteran team that’s been in the situation that they’re in Monday night, being a top seed before. I’m sure they’re going to throw some things at us and see how we adjust to it.”
North Murray 70, Adairsville 45
Coming in as the lower seed, North Murray had nothing to lose in its second-round region tournament matchup with Adairsville. On the other hand, the Tigers were one game away from the state tournament they had been positioning themselves for all season.
Unfortunately for Adairsville, the team did not play well in the one game it needed to advance as the Tigers lost to North Murray by a score of 70-45 to finish the season with a record of 13-11.
“Hats off to North Murray. They played well. They won a big game last night and had nothing to lose tonight,” Adairsville head coach Kent Howard said. “We played hard; We just didn’t play well. We didn’t handle the pressure very well and it cost us.”
Adairsville struggled early on in the game when North Murray came out with a full-court press on defense. North Murray led by a score of 31-21 after the first half and would only extend it in the second.
“We just didn’t handle the pressure. It’s something that we’ve done a pretty good job of all year, but just didn’t handle the pressure well tonight,” Howard said. “We’ve had a lot of good things happen to us this year. We have a good group of kids. We have a good group of kids returning, so there are a lot of good things from this year. 13 wins didn’t come easy but we finished with a winning record. Our program continues to take steps forward.”
Lithia Springs 70, Woodland 44
Handling full-court press defense had been the Achilles’ heel for Woodland this season.
That weakness cost the Wildcats Saturday night as they fell to Lithia Springs in the region tournament at New Manchester to end the season.
“Their No. 1 thing they do is press and that’s the weakest part of our game,” Woodland head coach John Howard said. “In the second and third quarters, they got a lot of points off transition and we couldn’t really handle the press.”
Woodland got off to a hot shooting start due, in part, to Romello Hicks, who hit four 3s on his way to 18 points for the game. The Wildcats led 17-11 after one, but lost the lead in the second quarter.
“We felt like we had a really good chance coming into the game. We came out red hot. We stayed in a half-court zone and we were shooting the ball really well,” Howard said of his team’s first quarter. “I think we won the first and fourth quarters and lost the second and third really bad.”
The loss is disappointing for Woodland’s players, but Howard has a different perspective on the season.
“The best part of my job is I have some of the best kids anywhere. That’s what I told them after the game. It would be nice to win as many games as we could, but each of them are going to go on and be really successful young men and have really good lives. They’re just good people and that’s what I want to be around and coach.”
Howard believes the season, which ended in an 11-15 record, can be a learning experience for the returning players next season.
“It just really opened their eyes that we’ve got to make a new commitment in the offseason to try to get stronger and faster and work on some ball handling skills,” he said. “Looking back at the season, I feel there’s a few games out there that maybe could have gone the other way and we could have won. Obviously, we don’t like to get put out in the second round, but I wouldn’t trade this group for any other group just for a couple of wins.”