Entering Tuesday, the most recent Cartersville-Cass boys basketball game ended with the Canes celebrating an 81-48 home win. That game took place Feb. 1, 2016, and a lot has changed in the nearly …
Entering Tuesday, the most recent Cartersville-Cass boys basketball game ended with the Canes celebrating an 81-48 home win. That game took place Feb. 1, 2016, and a lot has changed in the nearly five years since that date.
One thing that's different (and led directly to the renewing of the rivalry) is Cartersville and Cass are now both in Region 7-AAAAA, meaning the schools will meet at least twice this season.
In the initial matchup, the host Colonels showed how far they've come in front of a capacity crowd. Behind 20 points apiece from seniors Braxton Benham and C.J. Pipkin, ninth-ranked Cass controlled proceedings throughout in a dominant 77-41 win.
Following a jittery first few minutes from both sides, Cartersville eventually edged in front by a 5-2 margin. Seconds later, Pipkin buried a 3-pointer to tie the game, and the Canes would never lead the rest of the way.
"For all the time that's gone between the last time these two schools have played and tonight, you saw in the first few minutes of the game that it was a little bit sloppy on both ends," Colonels head coach Sean Glaze said. "... I think the last couple of minutes of the first quarter, we started to bring a little bit more defensive intensity. We made a couple of shots out of running our stuff, and then we had a really good second quarter to kind of set the tone."
Cass (11-4, 2-0) closed the opening period on a 15-5 run to carry a 25-12 advantage into the second quarter. The Colonels — who already have more wins this season than their 2015-16 counterparts — kept their foot on the gas, closing out the first half with a 14-2 spurt for a healthy 43-17 edge at the break.
As impressive as the Cass offense was for long stretches of the opening half, the defensive performance was even better. Cartersville (5-3, 0-1) came in with five consecutive victories, but the Canes struggled to create open looks outside or convert opportunities inside.
"Our kids were missing shots they normally make," Cartersville head coach Mike Tobin said. "They were all jacked [about playing Cass]. But Cass had a a lot to do with [the misses]. They've got a good team, and they play good defense.
"That was obviously the worst we've shot all year. Cass had a lot to do with it, but we missed at least 12-15 layups. That was huge."
Benham and Pipkin both had two 3-pointers and eight points in the first quarter. The former recorded four points in the second period and eight in the third, while the latter managed five in the second, five in the third and two in the fourth.
While Pipkin had a big game, as did junior Zaylan Chaney (13 points), Benham proved to be the most important player on the court. The lanky point guard completely controlled the game on both ends of the floor, helping keep the Canes from ever scoring more than five straight points.
"He's a mature, bright and really talented player," Glaze said of Benham. "Defensively, I don't know if there is a better on-ball defender in our region. What he does for us that is really special is that if they make a good play, we come down the floor and he does a good job of getting us back into a good set."
On the other side, Cartersville point guard Kam Callahan did all he could to keep the Canes afloat. The junior buried three treys and scored a team-high 15 points. Jynerieus Stanley added a dozen points, including nine in the fourth quarter.
Callahan and Stanley have both been playing the entire season, whereas several Cartersville players recently joined the team after the football program reached the state championship game. Tuesday marked the second game back for the group, and it's clear there is still a ways to go in building collective team chemistry.
"It's tough," Tobin said. "Against Cedartown, we looked real good and got on a roll. We looked like we had been playing for a while.
"You've got to tip your hat to Cass. They played good defense and got our guys out of rhythm. We weren't moving the ball like we needed to. They had a lot to do with us not looking good."
Another team that can empathize with how the Canes are feeling will be making a Friday trip to Cass. The defending region champion, Hiram suffered a 66-35 loss to Cass in the semifinals of the Campbell Holiday Classic.
"They're going to come in upset at the way we beat them the first time," Glaze said of the Hornets. "If we take care of the boards and defend like we can, I like our chances. ...
"If we take care of our business, we're a really difficult team to play against."
Asked if he was concerned about his team suffering a letdown after such a big win over the Canes, Glaze likened his team to a group of hikers.
He doesn't want his team to set up camp and risk complacency. He wants them to keep climbing.
"We're not just playing to beat Cartersville," Glaze said. "We are playing for a whole lot bigger goals down the road, and we're looking to make this a special season for all of our kids."