As seems to be the case in most sports in Bartow County, the boys basketball teams in the area offered a mixed bag in terms of success in the 2018-19 season.
Cartersville overcame a late start for the team’s football players and an injury to Isaac Gridley to figure things out when Region 5-AAAA action began. There were a couple of close calls along the way — in the quarterfinals of the region tournament and the first round of state — but the Canes managed to return to the state quarterfinals. They fell to eventual champion Carver-Columbus.
Cass bounced back from a rough start of its own, due mostly to a largely inexperienced group of players and a new head coach trying to learn from each other. The Colonels started to play much better during Region 7-AAAAA play and came agonizingly close to a second straight state bid.
Adairsville’s season sort of went in the opposite direction. The Tigers started off well, particularly in Region 6-AAA play. Despite a few heartbreaking losses, Adairsville was competitive in every game. But the wheels came off in the second half of the season.
Woodland picked up some impressive wins, downing Cartersville and stunning Carrollton. The Wildcats had a knack for coming to life in the fourth quarter, storming back in several games. A furious rally forced overtime in the Region 7-AAAAA play-in game before Woodland ultimately fell to Hiram.
For Excel Christian Academy, the return to varsity basketball after a one-year hiatus didn’t quite go as planned. While a few players put up quality offensive numbers, the defense often kept the Eagles playing catchup.
Player of the Year: Jacquez Fountain, Cass senior
There were plenty of hugely impactful players in Bartow County this season. There were also plenty of local players who proved to be matchup nightmares for their opponents. No player checked off both boxes quite like Jacquez Fountain. In his only season with the Colonels after starting classes at Cass in spring 2018, Fountain proved to be a double-double machine. His high-flying ability led to some breathtaking dunks, but more importantly, his soft touch in the paint allowed him to rack up points at will. He averaged 18 points, shooting 56 percent on 2-point shots, and nine rebounds per game, while earning all-Region 7-AAAAA first-team honors.
Mason Boswell, Adairsville senior — A star on the gridiron, Mason Boswell proved his dedication to the basketball team during Adairsville’s holiday tournament. Just hours after competing in an all-star football game, Boswell suited up for the Tigers on the court. For the season, he led Adairsville with 12.5 points per game — the only Tiger to finish with a double-digit scoring average. Boswell added an average of 3.5 rebounds (second on the team) and 1.7 steals (tied for first). He didn’t shoot overly efficient from the floor, but when Boswell caught fire from deep, few players could shoot it better.
Ethan Carter, Cass senior — Few players can match the athleticism of Ethan Carter. As a junior, he had to use his leaping ability to pull down rebounds as an undersized post player. This year, Carter got to play as a wing, utilizing his skill set to become a solid 3-and-D asset for the Colonels. Often matched up against outstanding guards, Carter played some of the most impressive defense of anyone in the county. He finished the year averaging 10 points and four rebounds per game. Carter also shot a solid percentage on 2-point field goals (50 percent), 3-pointers (32 percent) and free throws (68 percent).
Perignon Dyer, Cartersville senior — Being one of two returning starters, Perignon Dyer had a lot on his plate this season. Even more was asked of him when the other returning starter (Isaac Gridley) got hurt. Dyer put the Canes on his back several times. He scored his 1,000th point in the Region 5-AAAA title game and broke the single-season school scoring record (610 points) in the state quarterfinals. He added averages of 5.1 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game. Dyer landed first-team all-region recognition, Rome News Tribune all-tournament team honors and Northwest Georgia Tip-Off Club All-Star Game selection.
Isaac Gridley, Cartersville senior — There are few things Isaac Gridley doesn’t do well on the court. That’s why his absence for roughly one-third of the season really hampered the Canes. He returned to become an all-Region 5-AAAA selection and earn a spot in the Northwest Georgia Tip-Off Club All-Star Game. Gridley scored 12.9 points, grabbed 8.2 rebounds, dished out a team-high 3.7 assists and blocked roughly two shots a game. Few players with his size shoot 3-pointers and free throws as well as Gridley does. and he finished his Cartersville career with 733 points and 206 blocks.
Hunter Johnson, Woodland senior — Quite possibly the best 3-point shooter in the county, Hunter Johnson often showed off his well-rounded abilities. He led the team with 2.7 assists and 2.2 steals per game, with a solid 3.4 rebounds per night. Johnson finished the season just three total points behind Dawson Wilkins for most on the team. His buzzer-beating triple to send the Hiram game to overtime was one of the shots of the season in the county. Johnson earned a spot on the Paulding County Thanksgiving Classic all-tournament team and a spot in the Northwest Georgia Tip-Off Club All-Star Game.
Dawson Wilkins, Woodland junior — Dawson Wilkins has a strong case to be made for being the most improved player in the county. Wilkins had several games in which he piled up the points, finishing with an average of 15.4 points per game. While teammate Hunter Johnson made a living from behind the arc, Wilkins had a propensity for getting to the rim. That’s not say he couldn’t hit from outside, because he did bury 36 shots from deep. Wilkins added averages of 4.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.0 steals per game. With Woodland graduating several seniors, Wilkins will be asked to carry the offense even more in 2019-20.
Rayshawn Womack, Excel Christian junior — As mentioned above, the 2018-19 season didn’t go as planned for the Eagles. However, very little blame could be laid at the feet of Rayshawn Womack. The junior guard/forward posted averages of 14.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. A second-team all-Region 6-A performer, Womack will be tasked with helping Excel Christian return to its former glory next season. If he’s able to improve his stats next season (or even just maintain them), Womack will be a shoo-in for the all-county team and possibly contend for player of the year.
Jaylen Ballard, Woodland senior; Kolbe Benham, Cartersville sophomore; Malachi Gardner, Adairsville junior; Justice Hayes, Cass senior; Josiah Mosley, Excel Christian senior; and Amarai Orr, Cartersville sophomore.