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PREP BASKETBALL: Rome, Cartersville advance to Christmas tourney title game

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A week after its football team hoisted the Class 5A state football championship trophy, Rome’s boys’ basketball team will try to replicate the act, only this time with the Christmas Tournament’s Gold Ball Trophy.

They’ll have to get through a determined Cartersville team first, however.

It’s the Wolves and the Purple Hurricanes tonight at 8:30 p.m. in the title tilt of the 64th annual Rome News-Tribune/Seven Hills Rotary Christmas Tournament at Berry College’s Cage Center.

Rome came out ahead of Sonoraville 55-34 on Thursday, while Cartersville overtook Model 61-37.

Here is a closer look at Thursday’s boys’ semifinal games:

Rome boys 55, Sonoraville 34

The team chemistry and athleticism of the Rome High boys’ basketball team won out again Thursday night at Berry College as the Wolves used a dominant fourth quarter to defeat Sonoraville 55-34 in the tournament’s second semifinal.

Rome, playing just its second game, set up defensively against the undefeated Phoenix and held them to the fewest points of the season.

The Wolves (2-0) used a 9-2 run midway through the first half to take the lead and stayed in front from there, even when Sonoraville outscored Rome 10-3 during a stretch in the third period to get within three, 32-29.

Rome coach Eric Holland took a time out and Xavier Roberts sparked a run with a 3-pointer with 1:08 left in the quarter. The Wolves went on to outscore Sonoraville 16-3 in the final eight minutes and seal the victory.

“I thought that play we ran right there at the end of the third to get a bucket and get some momentum was able to stop the bleeding a little bit,” Holland said.

“We’ve only practiced really two days, so we don’t have a lot of stuff in and we’re having to coach through timeouts. I think it was a good job by all of our coaches.”

Caleb Byrd once again paced Rome in the scoring column with 24 points. The sophomore was consistent under the basket and went 6-of-8 at the line. Adam Anderson was next with 14 points.

With perimeter shots coming up empty, Sonoraville (9-1) fought to get any leverage inside but were frequently stopped by the Rome defense. Trenton Daniel led the Phoenix with 18 points and made Sonoraville’s only field goal in the fourth quarter.

Wil Walraven, who was Sonoraville’s leading scorer in the tournament coming into the game, was held to a field goal.

Rome will play Cartersville tonight at 8:30 p.m. at Berry College’s Cage Center for a shot at the Gold Ball Trophy. Sonoraville is back in action today as well, taking on Model in the third-place game at 5:30 p.m.

Cartersville boys 61, Model 37

Cartersville’s Jaylon Pugh and T.J. Horton stole the spotlight in the semifinal game against Model on Thursday at Georgia Highlands as the Purple Hurricanes topped the Blue Devils 61-37.

Pugh finished with a game-high 22 points while his teammate, Horton, was just behind him with 21. Pugh also had three 3-pointers to boost his final tally.

Up by just three at the half, Cartersville (5-0) really separated themselves in the second half as Horton had 10 of his points in the third quarter alone to put Cartersville up 40-25. Isaac Gridley of the Canes also added six in the quarter.

The Canes continued to pull away in the final period as they outscored Model 21-12 thanks in part to seven points from Pugh. Model (4-5) was led in scoring by Jackson Mathis with nine points in the game.

“Hats off to Model for that first half. They played great,” Cartersville coach Mike Tobin said. “They did a great job. We had a lot of turnovers, and they had a lot to do with that. What helped us in the second half is that our defense really turned up. We got a lot of points off our defense.”

The Purple Hurricanes move on to the tournament finals and face Rome today at 8:30 p.m. at Berry College. Model will try get the sour taste out of their mouths against Sonoraville in the third-place game at 5:30 p.m.

“The kids are excited to play in the championship game,” Tobin said. “Berry’s a great place to play at. It will be packed tomorrow night.”

Sports Editor Jeremy Stewart and correspondent Jay Hawkins contributed to this report.