The Purple Hurricanes were matched up against St. Pius again this year in the same game, this time with a different outcome as Cartersville won by a score of 59-40 Tuesday night at the Storm Center to keep the team’s season alive.
“It feels great. A lot of our guys were surprised how physical they were last year, so a lot of guys were ready for it this year and we were a little more intense,” Cartersville head coach Mike Tobin said. “We should have been intense last year but I have all the respect for St. Pius because they do play smart, and no lead is safe until a couple of minutes left in the game.”
Cartersville led throughout and held a 16-10 lead after the first quarter. A.J. Mosby had the first 10 points of the game for the Canes and helped them take a 10-4 advantage in the first four minutes.
The two teams buckled down on defense in the second quarter as St. Pius was able to slow the pace of the game down, something it is known for.
Ryan Davis was still able to make plays for Cartersville, however.
He scored seven points, dished out two assists, grabbed three rebounds and collected two steals in the second quarter. The steals helped Cartersville score in transition and avoid St. Pius’ halfcourt defense.
The Canes led 28-21 at halftime, but it was in the second half when they started creating some separation.
Cartersville’s run began three minutes into the third period. Davis was able to find teammates down low in transition for layups for Mosby and Corey Tobin on back-to-back possessions. Tobin then got loose on an inbounds play and connected on a corner 3-pointer to put Cartersville up by 11.
After a St. Pius timeout, Mosby hit Tobin on a backdoor cut for a left-handed reverse layup. Hunter Benham followed the play with a nice pass of his own to Mosby for a layup after a good-looking display of ball movement.
Tobin then capped the run with a 3 to put the Canes up by 20 points with two minutes remaining. Those three minutes of game clock saw Cartersville go on a 15-2 run.
“What kind of got under my skin is everybody talks about how fundamental St. Pius is. To me, it’s almost like people say they are so fundamental and we’re not, like we’re a run-and-gun team or something. That kind of hurts as a coach when they say stuff like that. Our guys did such a good job in the second half, except for a couple of possessions, we played smart,” Mike Tobin said. “In the first half, there was two or three times when we took some bad shots, but I am so pumped the way we had that lead and we picked them apart, for the most part.”
Cartersville shot 8 for 11 from the field in that third quarter and went into the fourth with a 16-point lead.
The Canes were able to hold on in the final period despite the aggressive, trapping defense of St. Pius.
St. Pius is the team known to beat defenses who overplay the passing lanes with backdoor cuts. However, it was Cartersville who scored on several backdoors, showing court vision and poise under pressure.
“That’s what happens with that offense we run,” Tobin said of the backdoor cuts. “When teams trap, that’s when you get your layups. We literally call it ‘layup.’ I was just pumped because everyone talks about how they control the pace. I thought we did a great job of controlling the pace from the middle of the third quarter until the end of the game.”
One concern Cartersville had going into the game was how effective the team would be at defending 6-9 Nick Harris. The College of Charleston commit scored his share of points, 16, but was limited by the Canes’ defense. Benham was able to hold the big man in check throughout the game and kept Harris off of the offensive boards.
Benham finished with 14 rebounds and five steals. Cartersville outrebounded St. Pius by seven.
“What a great team effort, but you talk about the heart of a lion, Hunter gave up about eight inches [to Harris] and he played great. [Benham] went crazy,” Tobin said. “I heard a lot of people talking about how they were going to upset us. That just drives me nuts because, right now, we don’t have a Division I signee and they got a 6-9 guy. If they would have beat us, people would have said we got upset. I dont understand that.”
St. Pius went 23-5 heading into its matchup with Cartersville, but the Canes were able to stave off elimination, improve to 27-2 and advance to the quarterfinals Thursday when they will travel to Buford.
Mosby was the leading scorer for Cartersville with 24 points. Tobin added 16 points and Davis scored 15 to go along with six assists and five steals.