Of the final eight games played at the Hounds Holiday Hoops Classic at Pope High School on Monday, December 30, Cobb County Schools played in six of them. Five schools were represented: Hillgrove and Pope for the boys; Hillgrove, Kell, Pope, Walton, and Wheeler for the girls. It was an exciting day, filled with lots of great basketball for the fans.
The day got underway in the battle for fifth-place between the Wheeler Wildcat Girls and the tough and balanced Etowah Eagles. The Wildcats played from behind the entire game, giving up quite a bit of height and rebounds to the Eagles. Etowah’s three-point shooting made the difference on the scoreboard though, and the Wildcats lost the game, 42-53.
Next up was the third-place game for the girls where the host-team Pope Greyhounds took on the Centennial Knights. The game began in a stalemate, with neither team able to sink a basket. The first score came with less than three minutes left in the first quarter. The Greyhounds started getting their rhythm in the mid-second quarter, with a pressure defense that caused many turnovers. The first half ended with the Hounds up ten points, 15-25. Pope extended their lead by outscoring the Knights by fourteen in the third. Playing most of their bench in the fourth, the Greyhounds took third place easily, with the final score at 31-60.
Meanwhile, in the old gym, the Hillgrove Hawk boys were playing a tight game against the Mount Pisgah Patriots for fifth place. In a low-scoring defensive battle, the Hawks took a five-point lead into the half (25-20). However, the Patriots won the second half by holding the Hawks to only 13 total points, while scoring 22 themselves. The close game ended with the Patriots edging the Hawks, 38-42 to take fifth place.
The Walton Raider Girls were up next and tallied a lopsided victory over the Apalachee Wildcats to take seventh place. The game was over almost as soon as it began, with the Raiders putting up 36 first half points, while the Wildcats could only muster 5 points. The final score was 54-16.
Over in the new gym, the host Pope Boys were squaring off against the South Forsyth War Eagles in the third place game. The Greyhounds lost a heartbreaker to Cherokee two nights earlier by five points to miss a chance to play in the finals. Any sign that the Greyhounds lost their focus was dispelled as they played the War Eagles close, taking a one-point deficit into halftime, 32-31. The Greyhounds had the height advantage as Gannon Brown and Ross Shepherd owned the boards for Pope, taking away many second chances for South Forsyth. Pope dominated the free-throw line as well, shooting 19-24. The Greyhounds posted a 25-point fourth quarter to win the game, 61-67.
Pope Head Coach Patrick Abney was reflective after the game: “We came out flat against a tough opponent,” he said, “but our kids responded to the adversity [of losing the semifinal game] with resiliency. I was pleased that we found a way to win and that we were able to knock down our free throws. I love this team and we have a chance to do something special this year.”
In the final game of the evening for Cobb County teams, the Hillgrove Girls met the Kell Longhorns in the championship game. It was a rare meeting for the two schools, since Kell is 5A and Hillgrove is 7A. The Longhorns were looking to add another win to their undefeated season under Head Coach Tony Ingle. The Hawks jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first quarter, but by the time the quarter ended the Longhorns had settled in to a 14-15 lead. The second quarter got off to an intense start, with Kell dialing in their three-point shots and playing strong under the net for a 20-point quarter. Kell took a 12-point lead into halftime, 23-35. The third quarter was scoreless for both teams until the Longhorns finally found the basket with three minutes left in the quarter. The Hawks responded and cut the lead to 5 points early in the fourth quarter, but the Longhorns kept their focus on both sides of the ball and finished the game, and the tournament, in first place. The final score was 41-54. Coach Ingle was proud of his team: “It was a hard-fought game through and through, and I loved how they competed in this championship battle.”
With the holiday tournament behind them, each school will now focus on a tough regional road ahead to stake their claim to postseason play. Congratulations to all CCSD schools that played during their break.