Facing a 13-point deficit late in the third quarter, Cartersville's offense finally got going against visiting Sandy Creek.
The Canes managed to pull within three points on three separate occasions over the final four minutes, but Cartersville ran out of time in hopes of completing the comeback in a 45-39 Region 5-AAAA loss.
“You can’t control their size, but we can control our effort,” Canes head coach Cindy Moore said in referring to a Patriots roster with four players at least 6 feet tall. “We never quit. … I feel like we really got better during that ballgame and finished strong.
“We’re disappointed in the loss, but that second half combined with the fourth quarter at LaGrange, that’s the kind of basketball we want to play.”
Coming off their first region win Tuesday, Cartersville (8-8, 1-3) was hoping to carry the momentum into Friday's game at The Storm Center. It didn't happen, as Sandy Creek (7-7, 2-1) shrugged off some early struggles to take a 27-17 lead into halftime.
For a majority of the game, the Canes' lone offensive weapon was Cio Seigler. The senior buried a single 3-pointer in each of the first three quarters. When Cartersville faced its largest deficit at 33-20, Seigler had nine of those 20 points.
“The biggest thing with Cio is her effort,” Moore said. “She follows her shot. She matches up against people she’s outsized by but reaches her hand in there and gets a deflection. The effort that she plays with kind of fires everybody else up.
“You could see us starting to look for her. We need her to shoot with confidence. She’s going to have games like that, but no matter what she brings on offense, Cio’s going to bring it on defense. She’s going to bring that leadership. I thought this was her best game, based on quality of opponent. … Scoring against that team like that was critical for us to even be in the ballgame.”
After Ariana Cochran scored four straight to close the fourth quarter, the Canes found themselves within single-digits. By the midway point of the final period, Cartersville trailed just 37-34. The Canes also were within 40-37 and 42-39 later in the quarter, thanks to four more points from Cochran and a pair of 3s from Seigler, who finished with 15 points — all from beyond the arc.
“I felt like when you watched our body language in the fourth quarter, our whole team was all in it,” Moore said. “That’s what you need, whether you’re on the floor or on the bench, playing for each other helped us fuel that comeback.”
While the Patriots only made 4 of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter, Jania Hodges sank three in the final minute to seal the win. Hodges and Daija Powell each had 16 points for Sandy Creek.
Even though the defeat was a bitter one, Cartersville has a great opportunity for a quick bounce back, as the Canes host Chapel Hill at noon Saturday. The Panthers are one of only two teams (along with LaGrange) to not yet have a region win.
The biggest hindrance to Cartersville finishing with a winning week might be just how quick the turnaround is. A possibility of severe thunderstorms tonight led the teams to move up tipoff six hours, but Moore isn't going to let her team make excuses.
“We challenged them and said, ‘What you leave here with, you have to bring that in the morning,’” Moore said. “We need a region win at home. Every region win is important for the seeding battle, but we really need one at home.
“I think we won some fans over tonight. … The crowd got into it, and that certainly helped. The outcome isn’t what we wanted, but a lot of the things that went into are.”