That was certainly the case for the Callaway Cavaliers Saturday night.
Down by a point at halftime after leading by seven at the end of the first quarter, the Cavaliers battled Rockmart back-and-forth in the third quarter before the defense clamped down on the visiting Yellow Jackets in a 74-54 win.
The victory gives the Cavaliers an 8-6 overall record, but more importantly, a sparkling 7-1 record in Region 4-AAA heading into Tuesday’s home game against Chapel Hill.
Callaway defeated Chapel Hill (2-16) on Jan. 5 by a score of 55-46.
Rockmart only tallied six points in the fourth quarter as Callaway ran the floor and reeled off 25 points in the final eight minutes.
“Our defensive intensity, full-court man-to-man pressure, trapping every chance we got, we made a few critical steals and that blew the game open,” Callaway coach Terry Hayes said afterward.
Perhaps the most impressive statistic on the night for Callaway was its free-throw shooting.
The Cavs hit 14 out of 15 tries from the charity stripe, something they’ve been working on a lot in practice.
“We practice every day,” Hayes said. “It’s time it came home to roost.”
Early on, it looked like Callaway might run away with the game when Nehemiah Jones gunned in a trey at the first-quarter buzzer to put his team up 20-14 at the end of the period.
But to its credit, Rockmart didn’t roll over and play dead.
The Jackets bounced back late in the second quarter after being down as many as 12 points to take a one-point lead at the half.
Rockmart came up with a trio of 3-pointers in the second quarter that helped it close the gap.
“We turned the ball over a couple of times and they made some big shots,” Hayes said.
The Cavaliers were up by a point after hitting an easy bucket underneath with six seconds remaining in the half, but Rockmart hustled the ball down the court for one last shot and a foul was called against Callaway on a missed layup.
Callaway players had gone to the locker room thinking the half was over, but Hayes had to retrieve his lineup to take the floor as officials put less than a second back on the clock.
Rockmart hit both free throws and had its lead.
It didn’t take the Cavs long to regain the lead in the second half as Brandon Bridges hit a reverse layup to start the third quarter.
The Cavaliers were up by three points going into the fourth when Bridges again scored on a layup, but was fouled this time.
He converted the free throw to make it a three-point play and give his team a six-point lead.
Callaway managed to get two critical steals early in the fourth that were converted to points.
At the 6:47 mark, Terry Godwin forced a turnover and scored on a layup.
Then Nehemiah Jones got a steal at mid-court and dunked the ball, giving Callaway a 12-point lead.
Rockmart never could recover, and Callaway maintained its momentum with a relentless full-court press.
By the time the smoke cleared, the Cavs were up by 22.
Although he wasn’t the leading scorer in the game, Dre Martin. who recently came up from the junior-varsity squad, played an outstanding defensive game and contributed 13 points and was five-of-six from the free-throw line.
“He’s a point guard, handling the team and he’s doing what he’s supposed to be doing,” Hayes said of Martin.
Jones led Callaway with 12 points, and Bridges and Martin had 13 points apiece.
Godwin added nine points.