With Dalton appearing to be in rebuilding mode after a run to the Class AAA state finals last season, the power in Region 7-AAA may have shifted to Cartersville, where the Hurricanes are 8-2 after beating Class AAAAA Wheeler Tuesday in the first round of the Pickens Holiday Classic in Jasper.
Cartersville coach Donna Enis said she was looking to learn things about her team in the tournament setting, and the intel she got was positive. Cartersville trailed by 12 with six minutes left before. rallying to beat Wheeler 67-61, sparked by 24 points, 10 assists and 2 steals from sophomore guard Kaelyn Irby.
“That was just a really good opportunity for us to play from behind and come away with a win,” said Enis, whose club plays Etowah today and Creekview Thursday. “I thought this would be a measuring stick for us. If we could be competitive playing these bigger schools, I felt good about our chances. If we get a loss, we get a loss. Wheeler gave us an opportunity to see where some weaknesses were that we could correct.”
Sophomore Stefanie Will scored 16 and Adrienne Green added 14 for Cartersville, which went 19-12 and lost in the state quarterfinals last season.
Along with the tests against bigger schools, Enis hoped the tournament would provide exposure for Irby.
“She’s had a lot of schools looking at her, sending her mail and things like that,” Enis said. “She doesn’t play on a big-time AAU team so she doesn’t get the exposure I wish she had. She’s the best point guard I’ve ever had.”
Set-back for Carrollton: The Carrollton girls didn’t fare quite as well against nationally ranked Providence Day of Charlotte, N.C. Though they led at halftime, the Lady Trojans fell 54-43, their first loss, in the Jump Off Plus tournament at Holy Innocents’.
“We were very competitive,” said Carrollton coach Shon Thomaston, whose club got 14 points from Kenyatta Hendrix and 10 from Raven Trammell. “My girls were upset after the game. They let a good opportunity go to waste.”
Providence, ranked No. 17 nationally by USA Today, improved to 7-0. The Chargers have won six state titles in the last seven seasons in the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association.
Like Enis, Thomaston wanted to get his team into a different environment.
“You want to get away and play different people, people that you’ve never seen,” he said. “It’s really a big-tim environment in there, with college coaches and all the different teams.”
Bounce-back for Columbia: Defending state champion Columbia suffered its first loss last week in the Chick-fil-A Classic in Columbia, S.C. Their opponents are doing the suffering now. In a rematch of last season’s AAA state final, the Eagles obliterated Butler of Augusta 71-40 Tuesday in the first round of the Converse Classic at Columbia.
“The guys had become a little bit complacent going into the game we lost,” said Columbia coach Phillip McCrary, whose club fell to West Charlotte, N.C., last week. “Following that, we pretty much got rolling.”
Indeed, the Eagles now 9-1, throttled Ridgeview (S.C.) 84-50, then beat Class AAAAA Southwest DeKalb to finish the pre-Christmas tournament.
Against Butler, Thaj Shamsid-Deen scored 27 points and handed out five assists while Jhaustin Thomas scored 10 points with eight rebounds. Chris Horton added 10 rebounds and nine blocks.
“All around they played pretty well,” McCrary said. “It was probably one of the better games we’d played in a while.”
Elsewhere in the Converse Classic, Eagle’s Landing downed Alabama power Wenonah 66-63 in the opening round.