What do you get when you mix two steady, mature seniors with a pair of dynamite freshmen? In the case of Carroll County’s girls’ basketball team, the answer is just another fantastic season.
Hit hard by the loss of six seniors from last year’s Region IV semifinalists, the young Cavaliers exceeded expectations by finishing 19-5 overall, including a remarkable 12-1 mark in the River Ridge District. Carroll County would go on to upset G.W. Danville in the Conference 24 semifinals to earn berths in the conference title game and Group 4-A North Regionals.
The Lady Cavaliers were rewarded with four selections to the All-Conference 24 team and two to the All-Group 4-A North squad. And although it’s still early, freshmen Mattie Kennedy and Keely Lundy are already in select company in Carroll County Lady Cavaliers’ basketball history.
Prior to this season, the last freshman to average double figures in points for Carroll County’s girls’ basketball team was Erin Gibson, who went on to finish among the career all-time leaders in many categories at Virginia Tech. This year, Lundy and Kennedy both achieved that feat as the two ninth graders were selected to the All-Conference 24 first team and All-Group 4-A North Region second team.
Seniors Megan Alderman and Crysta Guynn were also honored with second-team All-Conference 24 selections.
Kennedy had an outstanding rookie varsity campaign, finishing second on the team in scoring (11.4 points per game) and assists (3.3 per contest). She also accomplished the rare feat of leading the team in rebounds (7.4 per game) as a point guard, also making her the first freshman to lead Carroll in rebounding since Erin Gibson.
Kennedy also was second on the team with 81 made free throws, third on the team in steals, and she shot 30.4 percent from beyond the 3-point line.
Lundy, meanwhile, led Carroll in scoring as a freshman with 12.9 points per game. She finished one steal behind Megan Alderman for the team lead with 69, and was third in assists (2.6 per game) and fourth in rebounds (4.8 per contest). Lundy also was the Cavaliers’ biggest outside shooting threat as she led the team with 55 made 3-pointers, making good on 30.6 percent of her attempts from downtown.
“I’ve never had one freshman average in double figures, much less two. The only one I am aware of ever doing it at Carroll County is Erin Gibson,” Carroll County head coach Marc Motley said. “I think this team surprised everyone, even myself. I knew these kids were talented coming in, but you never know how much freshmen are going to bring to you. Shoot, they scored all our points for us most of the time.”
Kennedy and Lundy put up big numbers at the start of the season when nobody knew about them, Motley said. When teams started to adjust, their numbers dipped slightly, but both were able to counterattack and answer the challenge.
“We put a lot of weight on their shoulders to score points most nights, which is tough for 14- and 15-year-olds. They took it upon themselves to try to win ballgames for us by scoring the basketball,” Motley said. “Mattie, we put her on the best player on the other team. We really threw a lot on her shoulders, asking her to handle the ball on offense, guard the best player on defense, and be the leading rebounder. But I thought she did a tremendous job accepting that challenge and that is what I like about those freshmen. They want the challenge and that makes them better. They don’t shy away from challenges, which I am sure they will have a few of down the road.”
And while Kennedy and Lundy are both ultra-talented, it was the seniors that held the team together. Alderman led the team in assists (3.5 per game) and steals (70), which Motley said speaks volumes.
“To lead a team in steals and assists, that means you are guarding the best player most of the time and getting the ball to people who need to score,” the Carroll coach said.
Alderman also scored 4 points per game and knocked down 14 3-pointers. Guynn finished as the team’s third-leading scorer with 6.8 points per game to go along with 1.6 assists and 2.7 rebounds per contest. She finished fourth in steals with 1.5 per game and was Carroll’s best shooter percentage-wise, making 81 percent of her free throws and 31 percent of her 3-point attempts (19 of 61).
“Those two kids are going to be really tough to replace. Crysta is so steady. She makes very few mistakes, shoots the ball well, and she’s always in the right spot. She makes the play you want her to make, not the flashy one,” Motley said. “Megan will be so difficult to replace because she is very aggressive and makes things happen. She’s kind of the motor that propels us.”
Carroll’s loss to Charlottesville in the Group 4-A North Regional Quarterfinals was bittersweet in many ways. It was a tough pill to swallow in the last game for Guynn and Alderman, but at the same time they leave behind an awe-inspiring legacy of perhaps the strongest era in Lady Cavaliers’ basketball history. Hopefully, the loss will also be something that motivates the returning players in the future, Motley said.
“It’s like I told them in the locker room that night, Crysta and Megan got to do amazing things in four years. They won a regional championship and went to the only state semifinal we’ve ever been to. They got to do a lot of things and they should be extremely proud,” Motley said. “But I also told the guys that aren’t leaving that this is a learning experience. ‘If you don’t like the way it feels, you need to learn from this. I really think our best years are ahead of us if we do that.’”
Desiree Keeling (William Fleming), Bron’aza Fitzgerald (GW-Danville), Antavia Stevens (WF), Keely Lundy (Carroll County, Mattie Kennedy (CC), Gracie Doane (WF), Kaliya Barbour (B), Anissa Linder (GW).
Hannah Coulling (Salem), Meredith Mitchell (Pulaski County), Amber Evans (Jefferson Forest), KeKe Lee (WF), Megan Alderman (CC), Courtney Martin (WF), Crysta Guynn (CC), Chelsea Gordon (PC). Honorable mention: Aaliyah Webb (E.C. Glass), Kim Martin (B), Tahira Scales (B), Lexi Dabney (GW), LaPresious England (GW), Maddie Price (S), Megan Migliarese (S), Chloe Dennis (S), Nadjae Stokes (WF), Carlie Clary (PC).
Player of the Year: Desiree Keeling, William Fleming.
Coach of the Year: Champ Hubbard, William Fleming.
Region 4-A North
Desiree Keeling (WF), Jayla Harris (Chancellor), Maggie Phillips (Loudon Co.), Bron’aza Fitzgerald (G.W. Danville), Kendall Ballard (Charlottesville), Brenna Cook (Millbrook), Kiana Childress (Fluvanna Co.), Antavia Stevens (WF)
Sydney Jackson (CH), Brooke Basinger (Woodgrove), Kayla Demps (Courtland), Kiana Smith (Liberty), Keely Lundy (CC), Mattie Kennedy (CC), Kayla Tibbs (Heritage), Lauren Reed (MB)
Coach of the Year – Champ Hubbard (WF)
Player of the Year – Desiree Keeling (WF)