Going into Thursday’s Conference 24 semifinal at G.W. Danville, Carroll County girls’ basketball coach Marc Motley said maybe only seven or eight people believed the Cavs could pull off the upset. That turned out to be all Carroll County needed as the Lady Cavs knocked off the Eagles 36-29.
The top-seed in the East, G.W. Danville came into the game with a 22-2 record with both of its losses coming to 6-A school Franklin County. The Eagles also came in with the star power as 6-0 senior center Bronaza Fitzgerald has already signed to play Division I basketball at UNC-Asheville. The Piedmont District champions also averaged more than 56 points per game and had only been held in the 40s on three occasions this year.
But Carroll County (19-3) throttled the Eagles, limiting Danville to 11 first-half points and 29 for the game - 12 below G.W.’s previous season-low of 41 points against Franklin County. Cavalier freshman point guard Mattie Kennedy led Carroll with 17 points and 11 rebounds and just one turnover. The team dedicated the upset victory to her and her grandmother, Lois Maxine Kennedy, who passed away the night before.
“I felt like not too many people believed in us but ourselves, but I only need about seven or eight to believe,” Carroll County head coach Marc Motley said. “We played defense all night long for 32 minutes. They didn’t shoot the ball extremely well from outside, but we defended all night. Defensively we took away what they wanted to do. We didn’t allow them to drive to paint very often and we had two people surrounding the Fitzgerald kid in the middle. She had 19 points, but she earned all 19.”
Motley was extremely impressed with Fitzgerald’s athleticism, calling her possibly the most athletic big kid Carroll has ever faced during his tenure in Hillsville. But the Cavaliers limited the rest of G.W.’s team to 10 points. More importantly, Carroll held the Eagles to just one offensive rebound in the first half and outrebounded G.W. 32-27 for the game.
Limiting the Eagles’ second-chance points played a huge role in Carroll holding GW to just 11 points in the first half as it rolled up a 21-11 lead at the break.
“They score so many points off offensive rebounds and we only gave them one in the first half. That is the difference in them having 11 points in the first half,” Motley said. “They are very athletic, but we said going in if we could win the rebound and turnover battles we had a chance. We won the rebound battle and were pretty even in turnovers.”
The Cavaliers trailed 7-5 late in the first quarter, but Crysta Guynn scored two of her seven points on an offensive putback at the buzzer to even the score. Carroll then took control in the second period, outscoring the Eagles 14-4 to pull in front by 10 at the break.
The Cavs led 27-18 entering the fourth quarter when the Eagles started to mount a furious comeback. George Washington pulled to within three points before Carroll won the game at the free throw line, hitting 9 of 13 from the charity stripe in the final eight minutes. Kennedy knocked down 8 of 9 free throws in the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t play great offensively, but I can’t complain. We defended and we did a pretty good job taking care of the basketball,” Motley said. “They seemed pretty shocked. I don’t think they gave us enough credit going in, which played in our favor.”
Megan Alderman added five points, Sami Reece scored four and Keely Lundy tacked on three for the Cavaliers, who advanced to Friday’s Conference 24 Championship at William Fleming at 7 p.m. With a win, Carroll will host a home game Monday in the Group 4-A North Regional Tournament. With a loss Friday, Carroll will play at the winner of Charlottesville-Fluvanna.
Carroll 7..14..6….9 - 36
Danville 7….4…7..11 - 29
Carroll County – Kennedy 17, Guynn 7, Alderman 5, Reece 4, Lundy 3. 3-pointers – Alderman 1, Kennedy 1, Guynn 1.
G.W. Danville – Fitzgerald 19, Linden 3, England 3, Dabney 2, Gladden 2. 3-pointers – Linden 1, England 1.
Allen Worrell can be reached by calling (276) 728-7311 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN.