Calhoun's Caleb Boone

Calhoun’s Caleb Boone (center) goes up for a shot in traffic during the second half against Cartersville on Wednesday. (Tim Godbee, For the Calhoun Times)

Tim Godbee, Photographer

ROME — Calhoun made noticeable improvements from their first meeting with Cartersville last Saturday to when they squared off against them in the quarterfinals of the Rome News-Tribune Christmas Tournament on Wednesday. Unfortunately for the Jackets, it still wasn’t enough.

After losing 54-27 a few days ago in a non-region contest against the Purple Hurricanes, Calhoun came out and competed throughout Wednesday’s contest, narrowing the deficit to within a possession or two on multiple occasions in the second half. But in the end, Cartersville was once again too much, sending the Jackets to a 65-53 loss and into the consolation bracket. Calhoun (1-3) was eliminated from contention for the Gold Ball Trophy after winning it each of the last two years.

The Jackets trailed by eight after the first quarter at 24-18 and then by nine at 35-26 at the half but refused to go away quietly in the final two quarters. They started the second half on a 6-0 run to cut the deficit to three, but Cartersville quickly responded to push the lead out to 50-39 late in the third quarter.

Once again, Calhoun got back in the game with an 11-3 spurt that spanned to the end of the third and early in the fourth to cut the deficit to three once again at 53-50. Cartersville (4-0) took control from there, however thanks to some big buckets and clutch free throw shooting to finish the game off with a 12-3 run.

Calhoun coach Vince Layson said his team kept fighting back but could never quite grab full momentum in the game by taking a lead.

“We just couldn’t get over the hump,” said Layson. “We cut it to three or five a few times, but (Cartersville) seemed to make a big play or hit a big shot every time. They answered when they had to when we made a run. And whenever we did make a little run, their pressure forced us into some bad turnovers that hurt us.”

Davis Allen led a pretty balanced scoring effort for the Jackets with 13 points, including six in the fourth quarter. Caleb Boone added 12, with a trio of 3s and an impressive four-point play in the first half. Chase Goble also hit three 3s as he scored nine points.

Jaylon Pugh proved hard to guard as he scored a game-high 23 for Cartersville, hitting four shots from beyond the arc. Perignon Dyer and Grant Harris each added 11 for the Canes.

Layson said there aren’t any moral victories, but he was definitely encouraged by the improvement he saw from the game against Cartersville last Saturday to the one on Wednesday.

“We looked like two different teams,” said Layson. “I think a lot of that was because of having Chase back, and we also played with a lot more intensity. We know it’s going to take some time for the football guys to get in sync and find their touch, but I think we will continue to see improvements like this in every game over the next few weeks.”

The loss puts Calhoun into a consolation game on Thursday against Darlington at Berry at 4 p.m.

Layson said that while being in the consolation bracket after winning the tradition-rich tournament the last couple years certainly wasn’t what his team wanted, they need to use this opportunity in a positive way.

“That’s definitely not the game we wanted to be playing in,” said Layson. “But I told the guys in the locker room after this one that we got knocked into the consolation game in this tournament a few years ago and started 1-3, and then we went on to reel off 16 straight wins after that. Seeing how much we have improved in a short amount of time tonight was really good. Hopefully we can keep doing that and really be playing well when we get into the subregion schedule.”