Last night (January 14, 2020), the Kell Longhorns traveled southwest to the Hiram Hornet gym for two regional boys and girls basketball games. The girls were looking to keep their undefeated season intact, and the boys were looking to extend a four-game win streak. Both accomplished their goals.
The girls were up first, taking on a scrappy Hornet team that always seems to find a way to score under longtime coach, Michelle Caldwell. Hiram got off to a good start, ending the first quarter with a three-pointer to take the lead, 16-17. Kell’s Kya Williams responded in the beginning of the second with a three of her own—something she would do numerous times throughout the game—to regain the lead for the Longhorns. The second quarter ended up being a low-scoring affair, Kell scored 9 and Hiram scored 4, to end the half with the Longhorns up by four, 25-21.
Kell Head Coach Tony Ingle made adjustments at halftime and re-focused his team. The Longhorns came out ready to play their game and dominated the third quarter with pressure defense and strong rebounding to extend their lead to ten points by the end of the third quarter, 44-34. The fourth quarter was more of the same, with Kell protecting their lead and shutting down the Hornet offense to finish the game at 54-44.
Coach Ingle was characteristically demure after the game, shrugging off a 19-0 season. “It was a great job tonight by our girls,” he said, “but we have to get ready for Friday. There’s always another game coming up.” Asked about his team’s performance on the court, he said, “We played hard. It took us a little while to get going, but we turned up in the third quarter. It was a good, hard-fought game.” The Kell girls play another regional game on the road at Woodland in Cartersville on Friday, January 17.
The boys game would prove to be a tougher test for the Longhorns, with Kell coming into the game ranked 1st in the region and Hiram ranked 3rd. The Hornets had the upper hand early, scoring four three-pointers to take a commanding lead at the end of the first quarter, 10-19. Hiram would continue to set the tempo throughout the second quarter, taking a 22-29 lead into halftime.
The third quarter proved to be a frustrating eight minutes for the Longhorns, as they couldn’t get any shots to drop, despite consistent rebounding from the bigs. Each team scored twelve points in the third, and the lead remained seven for the Hornets, 34-41.
The fourth quarter was a different story though. Kell rallied early in the quarter to erase the Hornet lead, and managed to take a four-point lead with three minutes remaining in the game. Hiram wasn’t ready to quit, however, and fought back to tie the game with seconds remaining, 58-58. The overtime period was back and forth until Scoota Henderson stole a half-court pass and dunked strong to energize the crowd and his Longhorn teammates. It was all Kell from that point on, and the Longhorns added another victory to their record, finishing the game at 70-67.
Longhorn Head Coach Jermaine Sellers was proud of his team. “We know how to battle,” he said. “Hiram played well all four quarters, but we finally woke up and started executing and made plays when we needed to. But we need to work on better half-court execution. We are going to see more of that down the stretch, so we need to be more prepared to face those types of defenses. This was a good test for us, to be put in that situation on the road.”
The Kell boys are now 15-4 overall, and 9-1 in region play. They will look to keep their five-game win streak alive at Woodland on Friday.