Mariah Carter collected two steals and scored three layups in a furious span of 18 seconds in the first quarter Wednesday, setting the tone in Carroll County’s 70-53 victory over Floyd County in Hillsville.
With her team down 4-2, Carter scored on an assist from Madisyn Dalton to tie the game. Just 25 seconds later, she stole a pass and scored on a layup. She followed it up with another steal and layup just a few ticks later. Finally, she was the beneficiary of a Keely Lundy steal off the inbounds pass, taking the feed for her third basket in 18 seconds and fourth bucket in 43 seconds to stake Carroll to a 10-4 lead. The Cavaliers never trailed again, using its stifling defense to build a 26-point advantage late in the third quarter.
“She can do a lot of things. She didn’t get many minutes in the second half. She probably could have had more, but let these young kids play,” Carroll County head coach Marc Motley said of Carter’s 13-point night. “They work hard in practice, too, and you get a little bit of a lead and we are going to have to count on them down the road. They are going to have to play minutes. We got into a little bit of early foul trouble. We had four kids with two fouls going into halftime. We were able to go really, really deep early, but as long as we have a couple of kids in our core on the floor out of our first five or six, the other kids play great with them. They fit right in and seem to play really, really well.”
And boy did they ever. Employing an aggressive press, Carroll forced 19 turnovers in the first three quarters and limited the Buffaloes to 25.6 percent shooting (10-of-39) before the fourth quarter when the game was well out of reach. Meanwhile, the Cavs scored a multitude of baskets off those turnovers, shooting 45 percent for the game (27 of 60).
Those factors all allowed a deep and talented team full of young players to show off their skills as four different Cavaliers scored in double figures. Kenda Robinson led the team with 14 points, Carter finished with 13, Lundy added 11 points to go along with six rebounds and three assists, and Laken Alley added 10 points.
“I’ve been saying all year we have a lot of bodies. We kind of play the way Floyd likes to play, we’re in and out, in and out, and we’ve got some young, athletic kids that can put pressure on the basketball,” Motley said. “That makes things a lot easier for Keely and Mattie (Kennedy), which I felt like the last few years they have had to do so much. I don’t know that they like it because they like doing a lot. But our leading scorer tonight was off the bench. And most of them are two-footers because of being aggressive and attacking the basket and we are making the extra pass right now. As long as we will stay as a team and make the extra pass, I think we will have a lot of success.”
Carroll led 13-9 with 3:42 left in the first quarter before the Cavs finished the frame on a 9-0 run. Lundy capped the run with a 3-pointer just before the buzzer to make it 22-9 Carroll. The lead grew to 22 points at 38-16 on a Robinson basket late in the frame, but Elizabeth Quesenberry’s buzzer beater from half court brought the Buffs back to within 38-23 at the break.
Carroll didn’t let off the gas in the third, outscoring Floyd 15-6 in the frame to run away with a 55-29 lead before things got a little sloppy in the final quarter.
“(Floyd’s) not nearly as talented as they have been, but they still play with great effort, well coached. They never quit,” Motley said. “But I think right now we are playing well. I hope we continue this. By no means do I want to think I played my best game the first of the year. We want to play like we did last year and be peaking at the end of February and first of March. We got a long ways to go, but this is a good start for us.”
The Cavaliers will find out a lot more when it travels to state runner-up Magna Vista on Dec. 7 for a showdown between two of the area’s top teams.
Floyd 9 14 6 24 – 53
Carroll 22 16 17 15 – 70
Floyd County – Turman 2 0-0 2, Cox 1 0-0 3, Altizer 1 0-0 2, Thompson 2 0-0 6, Quesenberry 4 3-6 13, Harris 2 2-2 6, Pratt 0 7-8 7, Belshan 4 2-6 10, Eanes 2 0-0 4. 3-pointers – Quesenberry 2, Thompson 2, Cox 1.
Carroll County – Lundy 4 1-5 11, Dalton 1 0-0 2, Caviness 2 1-1 6, Robinson 6 2-3 14, Alley 4 0-0 10, M. Kennedy 2 4-4 8, Giles 1 0-0 2, Carter 6 1-3 13, Holt 0 0-2 0, A. Kennedy 1 2-2 4. 3-pointers – Lundy 2, Alley 2, Caviness 1.
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN