The Cartersville Hurricanes took a step closer to repeating as Holiday Festival champions in a way that was all too familiar.
The Canes stamped their spot in the finals with a lopsided 90-60 win over Darlington, who they also beat last year in the semifinals to advance to the finals of the Holiday Festival.
And again, just like last year, the Hurricanes will face the Model Blue Devils in a repeat battle for the gold ball today at 8:30 at Berry College.
Both teams are undefeated as Cartersville owns a 5-0 record, and Model is 7-0.
"It's awesome (to be in the finals again)," said Cartersville coach Mike Tobin. "I know there will be a great crowd here tomorrow. I watched Model play Coosa yesterday, (and it was) a packed house over there. Regardless of who we'll play, it'll be a great crowd. Every year we've been in the finals, it's been a great crowd.”
"The kids will have a fun time and it will be a good experience."
Despite the unbalanced score, the game appeared to be an equal matchup for most of the first half.
The Tigers opened the game with an 8-1 run and came out of the first quarter with a one-point advantage.
Both teams found themselves tied at 32 with just a couple minutes left in the half.
However, the Hurricanes decided to give themselves some breathing room by executing a 9-0 scoring run to cap off the second quarter.
Tobin attributed the late-half run to strong defense.
"Our defense helped our offense," he said. "Darlington does a great job of playing together, and I didn't think we played well together that first half.”
“Then on defense we got a bunch of steals," he added, "and that turned it around. It was definitely our defense (that helped our offense)."
Darlington coach Tim Garrett noted Cartersville's speed as a key factor in what pulled the win out of the Tigers' reach.
"What happened with us was that speed that (Cartersville) has," said Garrett.
"We don't get a chance to compete against that kind of speed at practice, and so the passes that seem to be there at practice aren't there when you play a team such as Cartersville."
The speed helped Cartersville eventually stretch their lead to thirty points, as they put up 49 points in the second half while holding Darlington to 28.
Helping put up the points for the Canes were the game's four highest scorers, Cartersville's Hunter Benham, Corey Tobin, Ryan Davis and AJ Mosby.
Davis had the game-high 24 points, and Corey Tobin put up 21, mostly off of five 3's.
Benham and Mosby had 13 points apiece.
Darlington's leading scorer was Will Sparks, who finished with 12 on the night.
Also in double figures for Darlington were Matthew Heiken and Hector Picon, who each finished with 10 points.
Cartersville will face a Model team coming off of two down-to-the-wire wins, as the Devils won in overtime against Coosa, and then beat Rome by one point to advance to the tourney finals.
Both teams are undefeated on the season and feature a mostly-returned roster from last year, making for a gritty matchup between the non-region powerhouses.