The Cass boys basketball team has seen its past two seasons end in heartbreaking fashion.
Following a narrow loss to Rome in 2019 — a defeat that kept the Colonels from reaching the state tournament — Cass suffered a similarly painful setback in last season’s opening round. After building a double-digit lead, the Colonels saw it slip away in an overtime loss at Columbia.
Fueled by the disappointing finishes, Cass (16-13 last year) is set to write a more positive script this time around.
“The maturity of this team and the time they’ve invested makes sure that adversity propels us forward,” Colonels head coach Sean Glaze said. “I’m really excited for us to get back on the court and be able to show what their work has produced.”
Cass, which opens regular-season play Saturday in the Woodstock Thanksgiving Classic, routed Kennesaw Mountain, 83-36, in its scrimmage earlier this week. Despite a tough offseason, the Colonels certainly seem to be fully prepared to get the meaningful games underway.
“We really had guys committed and invested in getting better,” Glaze said of the work his players put in over the summer and fall. “Getting in the gym, getting shots up, getting in workouts and working together.”
With The Daily Tribune News Player of the Year coming back in junior Zaylan Chaney, Cass boasts the biggest matchup nightmare in Bartow County. As dominant as Chaney — who measures at 6-foot-6, 210 pounds — can be at times, the Colonels are far from a one-man show.
Senior Braxton Benham flies a bit under the radar, because he doesn’t have one attribute that completely stands out. However, Benham brings an extremely well-rounded game and plays with an off-the-charts basketball IQ.
Then again, Chaney, a preseason all-state pick who averaged 14.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, will oftentimes be the focal point of the Cass offense. His ability to impose his will, while still knowing when to defer to his teammates, could be a determining factor in the team’s success this season.
“He really has a chance to be special,” Glaze said. “He’s a terrific kid. … To his credit, he continues to put in work, because he wants to be good. That’s good not just for him but also for us. I’m excited to see not just him develop, mature and stay hungry but also he really has been part of the group that gets along together. They really enjoy spending time together.
“As he’s gotten better, you’ve got a crop of guards who are going to be in a position to benefit from the attention he draws. I think they’re going to be able to be solid in making shots and making plays around him. It’s going to make us very difficult to play against.”
Prognosticators across Georgia would seem to agree. Cass enters the season ranked eighth in the Class 5A preseason rankings by Sandy’s Spiel and No. 9 in the classification by the AJC. Fellow Region 7-AAAAA member Blessed Trinity, conversely, ranked ninth on Sandy’s Spiel and No. 8 in the AJC.
Needless to say, the expectation locally and statewide is for the Colonels to compete for a region title and a spot among the last few teams standing in the playoffs.
“It’s nice to be recognized,” Glaze said of the preseason recognition. “… We want to be focused on where we finish the season, and not where people see us at the beginning of the season. Basically, that ranking puts a bullseye on our back. People will be chasing us, just like we’ll be chasing other people who are presumed to be good teams.”