CARTERSVILLE - The Cartersville High girls basketball team continued its march through the state tournament by doing something that has become common for the Lady Purple Hurricanes.
After watching Chestatee surge ahead for a six-point lead in the third quarter, Cartersville overturned that run with one of its own and held on for a 56-46 home win to advance to the Class AAA quarterfinals.
“I feel like our kids played hard and played with heart, and I just think they wanted it and [were willing to do] whatever it took to get there,” Lady Canes coach Donna Enis said. “In the third quarter, we got down but we’ve been down every game in the playoffs and we’ve had to battle back, so it wasn’t anything new and we didn’t panic and I’m just proud of ’em.”
When Enis spent her first timeout of the second half, the Lady War Eagles led 31-28 with 6:01 remaining in the third quarter.
Chestatee expanded that lead courtesy of a what ended as a 12-5 run, with eight of the points coming from senior Rachel Kelley, who took advantage of a backdoor play that left her open for uncontested layups.
The Lady War Eagles led 39-33 at the 4:28 mark.
Cartersville regained the lead behind two 3-pointers from Stefanie Will, one from Kaelyn Irby and a jumper from Adrienne Green in span of nearly three and a half minutes.
The Lady Canes carried a 44-39 lead into the fourth quarter.
Chestatee managed to get within four points — 45-41 — early in the fourth, but Cartersville secured its biggest lead of the game, an eight-point edge, and tried to close the game out at the free-throw line.
The Lady Canes struggled in that regard, going 5-for-12 down the stretch.
Unfortunately for Chestatee, it could not buy a bucket, overshooting some corner 3s and dealing with its own free throw difficulties in the form of 1-for-5 shooting.
Cartersville contained the Lady War Eagles’ biggest scoring threat for much of the night, keeping center Peyton Robertson to just 7 points.
“Well, I thought they did a great job,” Enis said of her players. “That was who we were keying on. We wanted somebody else to beat us. Of course, they’ve got a very solid team, a good team. I felt like Jazmine (Baldwin) did a super job on Peyton. I feel like Jazmine shut her down.
“Then we had everybody else that picked up the slack on the outside and kind of contained their shooters, and we did a better job rebounding, especially late in the third and fourth quarter, so it kind of sealed the deal for us.”
While Robertson was held below double digits — although she did finish with 14 rebounds, five steals and two blocks — Kelley and Sam Brown each led Chestatee with 16 points apiece.
The Lady Canes demonstrated their balance as Irby (15), Baldwin (12), Green (11) and Will (10) each reached the double-digit mark. Other scorers included Kea Garnigan (3), Bragg (3) and Katie O’Connor (2). Green led the way with 14 rebounds, Baldwin added 12 and Bragg added seven. Bragg also had eight assists.
“Their newspaper called and asked for our top three players, and I told ’em we didn’t have a top three. It was a team effort,” Enis said. “And that’s exactly what happened.”
The Lady War Eagles seized an early cushion in the game as Robertson, who had 20 points in a first-round win over LaGrange, scored five, including a converted three-point play to give her team a 12-3 lead in the first quarter.
Cartersville, however, closed with a 9-1 run to trail by one point going into the second quarter.
Neither team led by more than four points in the second as the two sides exchanged leads five times and were tied on six other occasions.
The game was knotted at 27-all heading into the locker room.
Chestatee grabbed some of its offensive flow from the first half before the Lady Canes began to slow them down in the third.
“We had gone over what was happening and we had switched Kea out to a position she wasn’t used to,” Enis explained.
“We just brought Carlee in and Carlee gave us more size and just really kind of stopped what they were trying to do.”
Cartersville (18-11) will continue its season into the Elite 8, where they will face Columbia (24-6) Saturday at the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center in Dalton. The game with the Lady Eagles, who beat Central-Carroll 64-32 Tuesday, will tip off at 7 p.m.
The Lady Canes will look to continue what has been a joyous ride thus far.
“I told ’em tonight in the pregame, I said, ‘Girls, you’re having a magical year. You’ve got the chemistry, you’ve got the will to win and you’re doing what you need to,” Enis said. “Whatever it takes [to win] is what they’re going to do.”