After starting Southwest District play in unfamiliar territory at 1-2, Carroll County’s girls’ basketball team has assured itself of no worse than a tie for first place.
Carroll County (13-8, 6-2 SWD) put itself in position for a tie Monday night by rallying for a thrilling 37-35 win at Richlands, then secured a spot atop the district standings Tuesday with a 50-38 home victory over Marion on Senior Night. The Cavaliers can win the district outright if the Blue Tornado loses Friday to Tazewell. If Richlands wins, the two teams will have a one-game playoff for the regular-season district title on Monday, Feb. 11 at 7 p.m. at Marion.
“Ever since we went to Tazewell, they put it on us, wore us out, beat us by about 17. They flat stuck it to us, and the next night after that game our kids kind of had a chip on their shoulders,” Carroll County head coach Marc Motley said. “We’ve played well ever since then. The only game we’ve lost since then was the Richlands game we lost on a shot at the buzzer, and we didn’t play that bad. They are just a good basketball team. But they have been playing with a chip on their shoulder ever since that loss to Tazewell because they didn’t want that to be a defining moment in their season to cost them what they were after.”
Prior to Tuesday night’s game, seniors Taylor Martin, Michala Hash, Cassidi McCann, Rachel Sellers, Hayden Caldwell and Brittany Willard were honored. They took it to heart as McCann scored six points, Martin scored four and Caldwell added a basket to lift the Cavaliers to a 12-2 lead midway through the opening quarter.
The tide quickly changed, however, after junior Megan Alderman came up with a steal and broke away for an apparent layup. She was fouled hard on the play, however, resulting in an intentional foul on Marion. Alderman was also called for a technical foul for kicking the ball while on the floor. After Alderman’s free throw made it 13-2, the Scarlet Hurricanes went on a 9-1 run over the next five minutes to pull to within 14-11.
“We got up big and I think we got relaxed. We jumped on them early and of course they made the physical play. We turn around and get the technical and it kind of stymied everything,” Motley said. “It stopped everything going and I felt like we relaxed after that.”
Crysta Guynn stopped the bleeding for Carroll, sandwiching a pair of 3-pointers around a Sellers free throw to put the Cavs back up 21-11. The seniors got back on track as well with Hash, Martin and McCann each adding two points at the end of the half to lift Carroll to a 29-15 cushion at the break. “Crysta come in and hit some big shots. It’s not that we played a whole lot better at times, it’s because Crysta made some big shots. She made three or four threes and that changes the complexion of things,” Motley said. “It doesn’t matter if you are playing that well or not if you can make a few shots. I didn’t think we played particularly well, but played good enough to get a victory.”
Sellers would give Carroll its biggest lead of the night, as she scored off a feed from Guynn to go ahead 40-24 with 1:35 left in the third. Marion never got closer than 12 points the rest of the way. Sellers and Guynn both had nine points to lead the Cavs, while Martin added eight points and eight assists and McCann chipped in eight points.
Against Richlands, Carroll County needed a furious fourth-quarter rally to stay in the hunt for another Southwest District title. Trailing 33-24 heading into the fourth quarter, the Cavaliers outscored the Blue Tornado 13-2 to pull out the dramatic victory. Martin’s pair of free throws with five seconds remaining gave Carroll its first lead since the opening minutes of the game. Even so, Richlands still had a chance to win. In the first game between the two teams on Jan. 12, Richlands won 38-35 in an almost identical situation on MaKenley Davis’ 3-pointer at the buzzer. Again, Davis had a chance to win, but this time the Cavs got a piece of her shot.
“It was the same thing but we missed two free throws with eight seconds with the game tied at 35. This time, Taylor knocked down two free throws with five seconds, they pushed the basketball up the floor, we doubled (Brittany) Allen with Hash and Sellers,” Motley said. “We doubled her and she gave it up to the corner and Megan Alderman got a piece of the shot at the buzzer. If it goes in, we lose again.”
The Cavaliers were down 11 just before the start of the fourth quarter. And despite putting up just 13 points in the first half, Carroll was able to stay within striking distance thanks in large part to Hash’s defense on Allen, who was held without a field goal and finished with 11 points on 11-of-13 shooting from the charity stripe.
With just 13 points on the board at the half, Motley said the Cavs were getting the shots they wanted. He told the team to keep shooting and someone would get hot. It never happened until Hash drilled a 3-pointer just before the end of the third, setting Martin up for a huge fourth quarter with eight points and two assists.
“It was like a lightswitch went on for Taylor. She hit two threes in the fourth quarter and she probably hadn’t hit but about five all year. She got hot, made passes, made the assist to Sellers and then she made the two free throws to win,” Motley said. “She just took over the fourth quarter by herself.”
Marion 8….7..14..9 - 38
Carroll 14..15..13..8 - 50
Marion – Richardson 1 01 2, Williams 1 0-0 2, Ratliff 2 8-14 12, Moore 2 3-6 9, Pennington 4 0-2 9, Lincoln 1 0-0 2, Mellinger 0 2-2 2. 3-pointers – Moore 2, Pennington 1.
Carroll County – Alderman 0 1-2 1, Sheek 2 0-1 4, Hash 2 1-2 5, Caldwell 2 0-0 4, Martin 3 2-2 8, Guynn 3 0-0 9, McCann 4 0-0 8, Sellers 3 3-4 9, Willard 1 0-0 2. 3-pointers – Martin 3.
Carroll Co. 6….7..11..13 - 37
Richlands 6..16..11….2 - 35
Carroll County – Alderman 0 0-2 0, Sheek 1 0 -0 2, Hash 1 3-4 6, Caldwell 1 0-1 2, Martin 2 7-8 13, Guynn 1 1-2 3, McCann 1 0-2 2, Sellers 4 1-4 9. 3-pointers – Martin 2, Hash 1.
Richlands – Hearl 1 0-0 3, Davis 3 2-2 10, Allen 0 11-13 11, Compton 0 0-2 0, Alley 1 0-0 2. 3-pointers – Davis 2, Hearl 1.