A classic battle between two longtime Christmas Tournament foes helped open the 66th edition of the holiday classic.
In a back-and-forth affair at Berry College on Monday evening, the Coosa boys prevailed 52-47 over Rome to advance to the semifinals of this year’s Seven Hills Rotary/Rome News-Tribune Christmas Tournament.
With just over six minutes remaining in the game, the Wolves led 43-42. It was then, however, that the Eagles’ defense, which had already been solid to that point, really put on the clamps.
“I really thought our defense was great,” Coosa coach John McFather said. “Malaki Martin did a tremendous job on (Rome’s) Justin Ingram, who’s probably one of the best talents in this area. I was extremely proud of Malaki and really the whole team for how they played defense.”
Rome (1-8) led at the halftime break 28-22 thanks in part to a stifling defense of its own. For much of the second half, the game delved into a physical dogfight, with the two teams trading hard-earned baskets in the paint.
With Eagles standout Keshaun Kindred confined to the bench in foul trouble in the third quarter, Coosa’s Jaquze Morgan picked up the slack, scoring 15 of his game-high 23 points in the second half.
“I thought Jaquze really stepped up, especially with Keshaun out,” McFather said. “He just went to another level and was relentless. In a lot of ways the whole team stepped up, but he kind of led the team and said, ‘Come on, come on, we’re going to win this thing.’”
Free throws down the stretch proved to be a major factor. Coosa (5-3) made their last six attempts, including two each from Zeph Philyaw and Terry Curry in the last 27 seconds. Rome, meanwhile, left their fair share of points at the line and missed four of their final six tries.
Justyn Smith led the way for Rome with 17 points while Jay Wise contributed 13.
In addition to Morgan’s big night, Philyaw pitched in 12 points for Coosa and Curry and Kindred each had six.
Coosa advances to play Pepperell in the semifinals on Wednesday at Georgia Highlands College at 5:30 p.m.
Rome will play Armuchee in a consolation game on Wednesday at Georgia Highlands at 4 p.m.
In other action:
Rome girls 65, Coosa 24
A barrage of 3-pointers in the third quarter powered the Rome High girls to a 65-24 win over Coosa on Monday at Berry College in a quarterfinal contest.
The Lady Wolves (9-0) hit five of their 11 treys in the third frame, with two coming from Justyce Moore and two more contributed by Dekerriya Daniel. Daniel finished with 13 points and Moore had 11 to lead Rome.
After going down 19-2 to start the game, Coosa (1-7) battled back to make it 27-14 at halftime. However, the Wolves quickly pushed the game out of reach with a fierce 18-1 run in the third quarter.
Mary Kathryn Broadway paced the Eagles with eight points.
Rome advances to the semifinals and will play Cartersville at Georgia Highlands College on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. Coosa will face Armuchee in a consolation game at Georgia Highlands on Tuesday at 4 p.m.
Darlington girls 59,
Darlington put together a complete team performance and rolled to a blowout 59-17 win over Woodland in a girls’ quarterfinal contest on Monday evening at Berry College.
The Lady Tigers (10-1) controlled the game from the tip and raced out to a 16-6 lead by the end of the first quarter from which they would never look back.
Emmaline Ratledge led the way for Darlington with 14 points. She was followed by Caroline Dingler (11), Georgeanna Dempsey (10), and Jy Jy Johnson (nine).
Morgan Cooper had five points for the Wildcats (1-7) while Abigail Taylor chipped in four points.
Darlington advances to the semifinals and will play Model at Georgia Highlands College on Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. Woodland will face Pepperell in a consolation game at Georgia Highlands on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Woodland boys 54, Darlington 52 OT
It took an overtime period, but the Woodland boys edged out Darlington 54-52 on Monday at Berry College in a boys’ quarterfinal contest.
With 0.6 seconds left in overtime in a 52-52 ballgame, the Wildcats’ Jamison Lawrence was fouled and went to the free throw line, where he calmly sank both attempts.
Woodland (2-6) had a chance to end things sooner at the end of regulation, but DiAnthony Heathcock’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer was too strong.
Heathcock finished with 23 points, 15 of which came in the second half. Lawrence had nine points.
The Tigers (3-5) led 23-22 at the half, but couldn’t come up with a few crucial plays in the final stretch. Patrick Shelley ended his night with 23 points for Darlington, and D.J. Johnson added seven.
Woodland advances to the semifinals and will play Model on Wednesday at Georgia Highlands College at 8:30 p.m. Darlington will play Cartersville in a consolation game on Wednesday at Georgia Highlands at 7 p.m.