It might’ve been the final game of the regular season for both squads, but it certainly felt like a postseason atmosphere on Monday night in Cartersville.
Gordon Central went into hostile territory and, in a roller-coaster game, came away with an 80-72 win over the No. 1-ranked and previously unbeaten Hurricanes.
“If Cartersville is the measuring stick for us, then what a measuring stick that is because they are a really good team,” said Gordon Central coach Rodney English after the big win. “When you make a mistake, they make you pay, and tonight we made them pay.
“This is a huge win for us. From where we started the season to now, our kids have shown so much resilience, and we are where we want to be. We’ll play whomever, whenever, and I really like my team.”
DJ Prather finished with 20 points, including eight in the fourth quarter, to lead the Warriors (16-8, 13-1) to the huge win.
“DJ kept looking at me and telling me to get him the ball so every chance we got, we threw it down to him,” said English. “I’ve said all year that our advantage against teams is DJ, and that showed tonight.”
Chandler Curtis and Roderic King had 16 apiece. King sealed the win by going 4-for-4 in the final minute from the free throw line and also scoring on a breakaway dunk in the closing seconds.
“Roderic was huge for us all game,” said English. “He played against multiple positions on defense, and he stepped up and came through when we needed him to. That’s what you expect out of your seniors.”
Cartersville was led by Ryan Davis who had a game-high 24 points, including 12 in the third quarter. AJ Mosby added 22, with 10 of those coming in the fourth.
The Warriors came out in the first half and took control of the game, using a 26-10 second-quarter advantage to lead 46-29 at the half. They ended the second quarter on a 14-0 run led by six points from Curtis.
But Cartersville would fight back, outscoring Gordon Central 23-8 in the third and then taking the lead back early in the fourth before the Warriors would control the final few minutes.
“We wanted to come out and match their start because if you fall down early against this team, you’re in trouble,” said English. “The third quarter has been our nemesis all year, but I kept telling my assistant we just had to get through it. And the guys showed so much resilience. Our strong leadership carried us through tonight.”
The Warriors’ win forced a coin flip after the game for the No. 1 seed in the Region 5-AAA Tournament which Cartersville won. The Canes will be the No. 1 seed, and Gordon Central will be the No. 2 seed in the tournament, which starts at Sonoraville on Wednesday with opening-round games. Both Cartersville and Gordon Central won’t play until Friday due to getting double-byes into the semifinals because of their regular-season finish.
Even after the win, English said he was already thinking ahead to what his team needed to do to get better.
“(Cartersville) beat us up on the boards tonight, and that really kept them in the game,” said English. “So we’ve got to clean that up, but we’re co-champions in our region, and from where we came from at the start of the season, it feels really good to say that.”