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ALPHARETTA (GA) – The Chattahoochee Cougars believed the tempo they preferred would create more separation between them and Cambridge this time around.
The faster pace resulted in just that as Chattahoochee pulled away from the Bears in the third quarter on the way to a 68-50 home win on January 28.
Cameron Sheffield and AJ White split most of the duties on the offensive end by both scoring 25 points in the Cougars’ fifth straight win.
“I feel like we rebounded the ball a lot better this game,” said Sheffield, who also had nine rebounds and four assists. “We struggled with that last game and offensively the tempo was real slow. That hurt us in the last game and that was why it was pretty close. They are also a good basketball team but today we also tried to push the tempo, get out in transition and knock down shots, and that is what led us to victory today.”
Even though Chattahoochee trailed early, Sheffield, who is also on schedule to attend Rice University, and White both reached double digits (11 and 12 points, respectively) in the first half to contribute to a 30-24 advantage for the Cougars at halftime.
“We pushed the tempo today,” White said. “We rebounded a little better and we shot terrible at Cambridge. We came out here and shot better tonight.”
While Cole Bearden (14 points) helped keep Cambridge close, White had the “hope-you-weren’t-looking-at-your-phone moment” when he dribbled the ball up the court in transition, paused for a possible shot fake that convinced Sola Adebisi (eight points, eight rebounds) to jump but crossed over between his legs and finished the play for a layin.
“I knew he was going to try to go for the jump shot,” White explained. “He had been doing it all day. I just hit him with one move and it worked.”
(The students in the Bears’ cheering section were probably impressed with the move as well.)
In the latter part of the third quarter, Chattahoochee put together a decisive 16-4 run to prevent this encounter from being a close one like the January 3 meeting.
To spark the biggest shift in momentum, White found Sheffield for a 3-pointer then Sheffield returned the favor with a pass to White for a 3-pointer and a 38-31 lead with 3:24 to go in the period.
“Those two have really learned how to play well together and they’ve realized they need each other–that development has been there,” Chattahoochee coach Chris Short said. “It’s like they know where each other are going to be.”
“Playing with AJ is great,” Sheffield said. “We both look for each other. Either he can score or distribute or I can score or distribute. It’s a good system for us.”
Moments later, Jahari Williams nailed a 3 from the corner, White added a jumper and Sheffield capped the surge with his fourth shot from the arc for a 48-35 advantage entering the final quarter.
The Cougars remained comfortably ahead during the last eight minutes of the game.
“At Cambridge, I think we struggled with the tempo of the game,” Short said. “We talk a lot about being the dictator, forcing the style of play or tempo that we want on a nightly basis. It’s always tough to play at Cambridge.
“I thought tonight dictating the tempo was really a key to the game, getting easy rebounds, good outlets, being able to push the basketball so we could get the flow going a little bit in our direction,” Short said. “I thought we did a better job of that in the second half.”
E.J. Smith scored 10 points and Davis Sager added nine for Cambridge.