Carroll County boys rallied from a four-point deficit with just under six minutes to play with an 11-0 run, then held off Pulaski down the stretch to pull out a 57-51 victory and advance to the Conference 24 Tournament semifinals.
“I’m very, very pleased with how we closed out the game. It’s hard to beat anybody three times,” said Carroll Head Coach Brad Hawks. “I think we handled their pressure well and our defense sparked our offense.”
Backing that up is the fact that the Cavaliers committed just seven turnovers, while the Cougars had 17.
After Pulaski had taken a 41-37 lead with 5:55 remaining in the game, Carroll turned up the defensive pressure. During the next four possessions for each team, the Cavaliers scored four baskets, including a 3-pointer by Gunnar Beamer that put Carroll ahead to stay, while the Cougars missed a field goal, a foul shot and turned the ball over twice.
Two free throws by Connor Lundy put the Cavaliers up 48-41 with 3:14 to play, but the Cougars sandwiched 3-pointers by Tameron Merchant and Miquel Garcia around two free throws by the Cavaliers’ Winston Giles to get within three, 50-47 with 2:38 remaining.
Beamer, who had a game-high 18 points, hit four free throws in the next 28 seconds, but with less than a minute to play, Pulaski had a chance to tie the game following one of the few Carroll turnovers. However, Lundy came up with a steal and hit a streaking Cody Keith for an easy layup and a 56-51 lead with 21 seconds to go. Another turnover by the Cougars allowed Blake Dalton to hit one of two free throws to provide the final score.
“Pulaski is the second most athletic team we’ve played this year. They’re not real big, but they know what they need to do and execute it well,” said Hawks, whose team improved to 18-5.
Carroll was hot from outside at the start of the game with five of its baskets in the first quarter coming from beyond the 3-point line. Dalton had two of those, while Beamer and Giles the other two. The Cavaliers began to build a lead in the second period and took a 27-21 advantage into the locker room.
However, the third quarter belonged to Pulaski, which rallied behind the offensive rebounding of Merchant and Lonnie Mattox to grab a 37-35 lead heading into the final period.
Although the Cougars did win the battle of the boards 25-20, the Cavaliers made up for it with better ball handling and shooting (46 percent) to Pulaski’s 44 percent.
Pulaski County 10 11 16 14 - 51
Carroll County 14 13 822 - 57
Pulaski - Eaves 3 0-0 6, Mattox 6 4-4 17, Merchant 3 3-4 10, Hickman 1 0-0 2, Johnston 4 0-1 8, Garcia 3 0-0 6, Burks 0 2-2 2. 19-43 9-11 51.
Carroll – Shinault 1 0-0 2, Beamer 6 4-4 18, Lundy 4 4-4 12, Keith 3 2-6 8, Giles 2 3-4 8, Dalton 2 1-2 7, Reece 1 0-0 2. 19-41 14-20 57.
3-Pointers – (Pulaski) Garcia 2, Mattox, Merchant; (Carroll) Beamer 2, Dalton 2, Giles.
Michael Howlett can be contacted at 276-728-7311 or @MikeEHowlett