Facing Cartersville for almost certainly the final time in their high school careers, the seniors on the Cass girls basketball team made sure to make the most of the opportunity. The triumvirate …
Facing Cartersville for almost certainly the final time in their high school careers, the seniors on the Cass girls basketball team made sure to make the most of the opportunity.
The triumvirate of Londaisha Smith, Gracie Elkins and Ariana Hames combined to score 44 points in a 56-35 victory over the Canes in the Region 7-AAAAA semifinals Wednesday inside The Storm Center.
“Londaisha, Ariana and Gracie bring a lot of energy,” Colonels head coach Burt Jackson said. “Once again, we’re talking about maturity. They know what’s at stake. They led not only with positive body language and energy on defense but also with picking everybody else up. …
“The seniors stepped up big time.”
The region’s player of the year, Smith brought her normal stellar defense and capitalized in transition to the tune of 19 points.
Elkins knocked down a trio of 3-pointers en route to 16 points. She provided a huge spark off the bench in the first half. At one point in the second quarter, Elkins had 10 points to Cartersville’s 12.
As for Hames, all she did was knock down a pair of clutch triples in the third quarter.
In that key period, the second-ranked Colonels (24-0) held a 16-3 scoring edge to break open a game that was within six points at halftime. Every point during the quarter came from one of those three seniors.
“Very pleased with our second half,” Jackson said. “This, to me, was a road game. When you beat a team that has qualified for state on the road by over 20, we’re very pleased with the win.
“It’s a natural rivalry, and we knew we would get their best shot.”
And that’s certainly what No. 5 seed Cartersville (7-15) did in the first half against top-seeded Cass.
The Canes controlled the tempo early, holding the Colonels to one shot on almost every possession. An Elkins-fueled 8-0 run late in the first quarter sent Cass into the second period up 15-6.
Cartersville weathered the storm, but behind the inspired play of Elkins in the second quarter, Cass further extended its lead. The senior transfer from Kell has struggled at times for confidence this season, but she has clearly settled into her role.
A prime example came in that second period. After her hot start, Elkins airballed a shot from distance. Instead of sulking, she ran back on defense, stole the ball, came down and buried a trey for a 24-12 lead.
That forced a timeout by the Canes. It worked, though, as Cartersville went on a 6-0 run over the final 3 minutes of the half.
“We did some really good things in the first half and gave ourselves all sorts of opportunities,” Canes head coach Cindy Moore said. “We did what you needed to do to stay in the ballgame. …
“I was proud of our fight.”
All of that came undone in the third quarter.
Hames scored six of her nine points in the stanza; Smith matched Hames’ six points; and Elkins chipped in four points. On the other end, an already strong defensive performance from Cass became even better, as the Colonels held the tournament hosts to just three points.
“We handled things with composure the first half, and we didn’t the second half,” Moore said. “We had folks try to do a little bit too much sometimes. Other times, we passed up some shots, because I think we were afraid to miss.
“Credit to them. They’re 24-0 for a reason.”
Despite the loss, the Canes have a chance to end the region tourney on a high note, as Cartersville will face No. 3 seed Calhoun Friday in the third-place game.
The winner will face No. 7-ranked Jackson (Atlanta) in the opening round of the Class 5A state playoffs, while the loser will meet up with sixth-ranked New Manchester.
“It’s something we can do,” Moore said of competing with a top team. “We showed ourselves we can do it. Whoever we match up with after Friday, that’s gotta be something we can take some confidence in.”
While the Canes know they will be traveling for the first round of the state tournament, the Colonels have locked up at least one home game.
Now, Cass sets its sights on beating Hiram — the second seed in the region and No. 9 team in 5A — for the third time this season in Friday’s region finals.
"Got a lot accomplished tonight, and they have a lot to be proud of," Jackson said. "But we have to refocus and get ready for a good Hiram team on Friday."