Caleb Byrd dropped 31 points and Rome shut down Cartersville in the second half to glide to a 67-52 win in the first boys’ semifinal of the Rome News-Tribune/Seven Hills Rotary Christmas Tournament on Wednesday at Georgia Highlands College.
Rome will face the winner of Wednesday’s late game between Model and Darlington in today’s championship game at 7 p.m. at Berry College’s Cage Center. The Wolves, who lost to Cartersville in last year’s tournament finals, are looking for their first Gold Ball trophy since 2009.
With the Wolves up 32-26 at halftime of Wednesday’s game, Rome assistant head coach Terry Smith said that taking care of business on the less glamorous side of the floor was the primary message in the locker room.
“Offensively, we felt like once we executed we could get what we wanted,” Smith said. “But we couldn’t keep trading baskets, going back and forth. We told them ‘We have to get stops and the kids bought into that.”
Coming out of the break, the Wolves defense responded by clamping down on a high-powered Cartersville offense that put up 75 against Coosa in the quarterfinals. On the other end, Byrd scored the first nine points of the third quarter for the Wolves, allowing them to wrestle control of the game.
Rome found success driving to the lane and finishing tough shots at the rim. Even when those looks weren’t falling, the Wolves were able to draw fouls and made the most of their free-throw opportunities.
The opening quarter was a fast-paced, offense-filled affair, with both squads answering each other’s buckets. When the dust cleared, Rome was on top 17-16.
From there, the matchup delved into a physical dogfight, with every rebound hotly contested. Rome’s Justin Ingram gathered several tough boards and was able to find streaking teammates for transition buckets.
In addition to Byrd, Jaylen Nelson (11), Ingram (10), and K.J. Brown (9) were productive contributors for Rome.
Cartersville, who on Monday played their first game since the return of their football players, was led by Perignon Dyer’s 14 points. Kolbe Benham added 11 for the Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes will take on the loser of Wednesday’s Model-Darlington matchup in the tournament’s third-place game today at 4:00 p.m. at Berry College.
Coosa boys 66, Woodland 62
An explosive third quarter helped the Coosa boys’ basketball team earn a hard-fought 66-62 victory over Woodland on Wednesday in a consolation game at Georgia Highlands.
Tied 27-27 at halftime, the Eagles came out with a vengeance in the third period and ripped off a 21-3 run to open the quarter, taking a 48-30 lead.
Coosa’s Kenon Dixon was the catalyst for the run, scoring nine of his 16 points in those eight minutes. Sean Brown added 12 points for the Eagles.
Down 51-34 at the start of the fourth quarter, Woodland stormed back and pulled to within 61-60 off a three from Peyton Roberts with 1:09 left in the game. Some clutch free-throw shooting sealed the deal down the stretch for Coosa.
Woodland’s first 20 points of the game were scored by two players, Hunter Johnson and Dawson Wilkins. Johnson ended his afternoon with 23 points, including five three-pointers. Wilkins finished with 15 points.
Coosa returns to regular season action when they take on North Oconee on Dec. 27th. Woodland will face cross-town rival Cartersville in regular season action on Dec. 27th.