Unfortunately for him and his team, they were on the wrong side of that equation on Monday.
Playing in their opening game of the Region 7-AA tournament at Rockmart High School, Pepperell opened strong against Dade County but watched its advantage shrink over the final three periods to give way to an 86-83 win by the Wolverines of Trenton.
The victory was just the second of the season for Dade, who won its first game just three days prior with a 57-51 win over Gordon Central.
“I knew Dade County would come in hungry. For them to lose every game and then win one like that right before the tournament, it can change the way a team acts,” Mendence said.
The loss for Pepperell eliminates them from the tournament and keeps them out of contention for a berth in the state playoffs.
“Hats off to Dade,” Mendence said. “I’m not going to make any excuses.
“Their kids shot the ball extremely well and they put the pressure on us. I hate it for our seniors. We had four of them starting. But that’s the way basketball goes. It hurts sometimes.”
Pepperell (7-16) opened the game with a 15-3 run and went up as much as 22-6 before Dade recovered some and finished the first period down 25-14.
Things started turning the Wolverines’ way late in the first when Pepperell began getting into foul trouble. Dade then found the basket more in the second period and got within three of the Dragons, going into halftime behind 42-39.
“We came out the way we wanted to and were able to keep them playing our speed. Then we got some kids into foul trouble and they turned the tempo up on us,” Mendence said. “Our plan was to beat their pressure and when we had that happen we kind of went into panic mode.”
Dade County (2-23) kept working, making shots in transition, and tied the game at 48 apiece in the third before a 9-2 Pepperell run pulled the Dragons back ahead.
An 8-0 run to start the fourth period moved Dade County into the lead, however, and despite a pair of runs from Pepperell that put them within one of the lead, the Wolverines stayed in front.
Payton Rhoades led the Dragons with a game-high 36 points, including some key second-chance shots, while Andrew Wilder finished with 28 points, including the team’s only 3-pointer. Dade was led by Ethan Webber’s 21 points, including 12 in the final period, while the team finished with eight treys on the night.
Dade County moves on to play Model’s boys today at 5:30 in the quarterfinals.
In other tournament action:
Armuchee girls 56, Pepperell 49
With the score separated by one point for the majority of the game, Armuchee used a fast-scoring run at the end of the fourth period to come out ahead of Pepperell 56-49.
Julia Williams led Armuchee with 15 points, with teammate Chloe Purdy next with 14 and Olivia Moses with 12. Moses went 8-for-13 at the line.
Pepperell (8-15) was paced by Maycy Owens’ 14 points, while Mattie Blalock had 12 and Ellie Cox finished with 11, including three 3-pointers.
Armuchee (8-15) will play Gordon Central today at 7 p.m. in the tournament quarterfinals.
Chattooga girls 58, Coosa 39
The Chattooga girls opened with an 11-2 run and got a boost from a series of 3-pointers in the third period to complete a 58-39 win over Coosa in the opening game of the tournament.
Faith Foster led the Lady Indians with 19 points, while Tia Dunaway went 8 of 9 from the line on the way to 16 points. Coosa (2-20) was paced by Nay Millsap’s 10 points. Lainey Simms and Paris Woodard each added six, with Woodard sinking a pair of 3’s in the final period.
The loss brought an end to Lady Eagles’ head coach Robby Dooley’s first season at the helm.
“I told the girls to not to base this season off of our record,” Dooley said. “I think we have improved as the season has gone on, and the girls have worked hard. That’s what made it so easy of a transition for me, and the seniors I had helped by being great leaders.”
Chattooga (12-14) moves on to play Dade County today at 4 p.m. in the quarterfinals.
Armuchee boys 60, Gordon Central 52, OT
Brantson Duck scored four points and Armuchee went 8 of 10 from the line in overtime to pull out a 60-52 win over Gordon Central in the final game of Day 1 of the Region 7-AA basketball tournament.
The Indians (7-16) stayed out in front for most of the game until a surge in the fourth quarter by Gordon Central led to the score tied 50-50. Eli Brock attempted a last-second shot but was unsuccessful, sending the game into overtime.
Duck made a quick layup at the start of the four-minute period and Armuchee held the Warriors to just two points the rest of the way.
Brayden Perry led the Indians with 11 points, including three 3-pointers, while Brock finished with 10 and Duck had nine. Dawson Lackey paced Gordon Central with a game-high 23 points.
Armuchee will continue the tournament today against No. 3 seed Coosa with a scheduled 8:30 p.m. tipoff.