TALLAPOOSA — A late Christmas present was picked up by the Rockmart boys basketball team just before the new year, and it came at an important time.
Both the Jackets and Lady Jackets played in the 46th Hilburn-Patterson Haralson County Invitational over a three-day span at the end of December. Rockmart’s girls went 1-2 in the tournament and finished fourth, but the boys went on to win all three of their contests, including the championship game over Harvester Christian to take home the title.
It was a much-needed boost for the Jackets, who went into the tournament after losing three of their previous four games and were 1-4 in Region 6-3A play through the first part of the season.
But Rockmart was able to find a way to win in three very close matchups in the tournament, played at Haralson County High School, with the Jackets getting victories over Bowdon (80-72) and Cedartown (48-47) before topping the Hawks from Douglasville 61-54 in the finals.
Jakari Clark, who made a buzzer-beating 3-pointer against Polk County rival Cedartown in the semifinals, was named the tournament’s boys MVP, while teammate Treylin Davis earned all-tournament team honors.
“This tournament is amazing. Haralson County does such a good job putting it on. I played in it as a player,” Rockmart boys coach Vic Calhoun said. “I was telling our kids a lot about the history of it and how important it is to the people in this area. There’s a lot of good basketball players and teams that have played in this thing. So it always feels good to compete in this place, and to win it is phenomenal.”
Rockmart had four players reach double digits in the tournament opener on Dec. 28 against Bowdon, led by Davis’ 32 points, 21 of which came from 3-pointers. Towering center Damian Horton finished with 18 points, while Clark had 11 and Cam Ferguson had 10.
It was a Jacket lead early the next day against Cedartown, but the Bulldogs took a slim 38-36 advantage into the final period. The two traded baskets for the next eight minutes until Clark made his game-winning shot at the very end to secure the victory and Rockmart’s spot in the finals.
Harvester Christian, a member of the Georgia Association of Private and Parochial Schools, battled tough for the first half of the championship game on Dec. 30, taking a 36-27 lead into the locker room at halftime.
But a trey by Davis about two minutes into the third period sparked a 14-1 run for Rockmart, giving them a 45-52 lead with 36 seconds left in the quarter.
The Jackets kept the Hawks off the boards for the remainder of the game, leading by nine at one point before finishing with a 61-54 victory. Davis led Rockmart with 23 points, sinking five 3’s in the process, while Horton had 17 points and Dennis Sims added 10.
“We learned how to close out some close games (against Harvester Christian), with Cedartown, and our first one with Bowdon. All three close games, good competition, and that’s what we haven’t done in the region yet,” Calhoun said. “So I’m hoping that this tournament will kind of springboard us forward. We learned how to win in this tournament. So hopefully that carries us on and we can pick it up in region play as well.”
The Jackets were able to carry over the momentum from the Haralson tournament into their next games as Rockmart topped Ringgold 69-60 on Jan. 4 and then defeated Murray County 58-43 on Friday, Jan. 7, both in Region 6-3A.
Rockmart was 8-5 overall and 3-4 in region play heading into a rescheduled matchup with Coahulla Creek on Monday, Jan. 10 in Dalton. They will play at Adairsville on Friday before making the trip to Summerville for a non-region tilt with Chattooga on Saturday.
In girls action, Rockmart opened the Haralson County tournament with a 59-50 win over Bremen, but dropped its next two contests — a 47-43 loss to host Haralson County, and a 50-36 defeat against Piedmont (Ala.) in the third-place game.
The young squad of Lady Jackets fought to take the first game over the Lady Blue Devils as Sky Myers led Rockmart with 19 points and five 3-pointers, followed by Analee Morris with 17, and Zori Williams with 12.
Rockmart’s girls held a 26-17 halftime lead over Haralson County in the semifinal match but couldn’t manage to hold on through the final two quarters. Morris led the team with 22 points, while Myers and Williams were next with eight each.
The Lady Jackets started the second half of their contest with Piedmont on a 12-3 run and got within two points of the lead before the Lady Bulldogs pulled away. Williams led the team with 16 points, including three 3’s, while Morris finished with 10.
Rockmart’s girls started the new year with a tough 47-36 loss to Region 6-3A foe Ringgold at home on Jan. 4 but got back in the win column on Friday, Jan. 7, with a 48-35 road win at North Murray.
The Lady Jackets were 6-7 overall and 3-4 in 6-3A play before making the trip to Dalton on Monday, Jan. 10, for a rescheduled contest against Coahulla Creek.