One wants to be an attorney, another hopes to be a veterinarian and there’s even a possible future mortician among the group. The Cass girls basketball senior class is full of radically different potential career paths.
Tuesday night, though, they were all basketball players. On senior night, the 12th-graders were honored, but not before getting the better of their crosstown Region 7-AAAAA rivals Woodland one more time in a 52-27 victory over the Wildcats.
Between the added distraction of senior night festivities and a pair of draining defeats to the region’s top two teams (Carrollton and Villa Rica) on consecutive days, Cass seemed to be a little fatigued, even in the early stages of the game.
A sluggish opening period saw the Colonels take a meager 4-2 lead into the second quarter. While Cass shoulders some responsibility for the slow start, Cass head coach Burt Jackson credited Woodland and its head coach, Kyle Morgan, for making things difficult on the Colonels.
“Let’s give Woodland credit,” Jackson said. “[Morgan] had a game plan, and they executed it well in terms of holding the ball. Missed some easy shots in the first quarter. … But Woodland deserves some credit for coming out and doing that.”
Eventually, Cass (18-4, 10-4) did what it does best: turn up the pressure. Trapping and pressing allowed the Colonels to get some easy baskets and things started to snowball for the young Wildcats.
As turnovers mounted, Cass used a 17-0 run to build a sizable advantage. To its credit, Woodland (1-19, 1-12) played the home team fairly evenly the rest of the game. Despite remaining within 15-20 points most of the night, missed free throws and interior shots kept the Wildcats from truly striking fear into the hearts of the Colonels.
“We had difficulty when they extended pressure, had several live-ball turnovers,” Morgan said. “We kind of lost our way there and got rattled. A lot of that goes to [Cass] and the pressure they were able to put on us in the halfcourt trap. A lot of it was us, as well, making careless passes and making mistakes. They’re a good enough team that when you make mistakes, they punish you. To their credit, they were the better team tonight.”
Thanks in large part to the extended spurt, which spanned portions of the first and second quarters, Cass opened up a 23-9 halftime lead. Freshman Claire Davis almost matched Woodland, scoring eight of her game-high 14 points in the first half.
The Wildcats, who have their senior night Friday, more than doubled their point total in the third quarter, finishing with 10 points in the period. Ansley Evans and Madgie Robinson, who led the Wildcats with 12 points, each hit a 3-pointer in the stanza.
“They kept competing,” Morgan said of his players. “I don’t think it was a lack of will on our part. Maybe just a lack of execution.”
Even still, Cass extended its lead to 37-19 entering the final quarter. That’s when Payton Stoddard heated up. After a scoreless opening half, the senior sank a triple in the third quarter before blowing up in the fourth to finish with 11 points on the night.
Jackson will hope Tuesday’s win will be a palate cleanser after a pair of losses over the weekend to top-10 teams to close out an exhausting week. He’ll also hope the amount of rotation will keep his team fresh ahead of a rematch with top-ranked Villa Rica at home Friday.
“The girls are pumped for a rematch with Villa Rica,” Jackson said. “Rome beat us the first time; we got them the second time. Carrollton beat us by 22 the first time; truthfully, we should have won the second time. Villa Rica got us the first time; we’re looking forward to meeting up with the No. 1, undefeated team in the state.”
The number of times the Cass seniors have left to pull on their Colonels basketball jersey is dwindling. There are three games remaining in the regular season, including two region contests. Beyond that, it’s unknown how many postseason games the Colonels will have.
Jackson is hoping for a long playoff run. If for no other reason than, it’s going to to be hard to say good bye to the graduating seniors, when the season does come to a close.
“Words can’t really describe how invaluable our seniors have been,” Jackson said. “They’ve been great leaders. Been with me for four years and bought in to what we’re trying to do here. They lead by example, and obviously, they’re a huge part of the success we’ve had.
“I’m going to miss them. I can only hope their hopes and dreams, they’re able to attain as they leave here. There’s not enough time for me to describe just how important and valuable they are to the program.”