Sports are a fickle beast, but every now and then a special moment happens that makes you remember why you put up with all the heartbreaks and devastating losses in the first place. For Carroll County’s boys’ basketball team, that moment came Thursday on Senior Night in a 60-42 win over Patrick Henry.
Simply put, Hollywood couldn’t have scripted Thursday’s win better if it tried. Realistically, the Cavaliers had no business beating Patrick Henry. The 6A Patriots are bigger, deeper and more athletic than 4A Carroll County (9-13, 3-11 River Ridge District). Meanwhile, Patrick Henry (15-7, 12-2 River Ridge) came into the game with just one district loss. Carroll County had 11 district losses, including a 68-23 beatdown less than a month earlier in Roanoke against this same Patrick Henry team.
But as the old cliché goes, that’s why they don’t play the game on paper. Point guard Micah Johnson, one of eight seniors on this year’s team, said Thursday’s win felt like a miracle. But the Cavaliers were determined to make Thursday a game they will remember for the rest of their lives, said senior Caden Hodges.
“We weren’t going to lose on Senior Night. I mean we have been playing together since third grade so we had to end with a bang,” Johnson said. “We are going to go in (the locker room) and we will probably bawl our eyes out. I don’t know what is going to happen, but it is going to be awesome.”
And it was the seniors who set the tone for the big upset. In the spirit of Senior Night, Carroll started three seniors who seldom see game action – Austin Wolford, Tyler VanCampen and Derek Case – along with seniors Landon Williams and Garret Haynes. Patrick Henry failed to score on that unit until head coach Tee Jackson brought in his regular starters 90 seconds into the contest.
Meanwhile, Carroll County’s defense followed the seniors’ spectacular example, limiting the Patriots to 24.4 shooting from the field (11-of-45) until Patrick Henry scored three late baskets in garbage time in the final minute.
“It is the first game all year we’ve run nothing but 2-3 zone. Athletically we can’t match up with them,” Jackson said. “They have some terrific athletes so our best defense is to try to make them shoot outside shots. That was the focus, make them shoot outside and rebound because they score a lot of second-chance points. For whatever reason they were struggling a little on their outside shots. We were able to rebound and that was the difference.”
An old-fashioned 3-point play by Johnson and four points from Adam Horton staked the Cavaliers to a 7-2 lead more than halfway through the opening quarter. The Patriots rallied, however, and tied the game at 10-all on Nick Logan’s 3-pointer to end the first period.
Landon Williams opened the second quarter with a bucket, allowing Carroll to retake the lead. But a personal foul and technical foul on Carroll sparked a 7-0 Patrick Henry run. Up 17-12, it felt like the Patriots might be ready to take control of the contest. It never happened.
Caden Hodges drilled a 3-pointer, Garret Haynes added a basket and a free throw, and Johnson drained a triple to put Carroll up 23-22 with 1:37 left in the half. P.H. elected to hold the ball until 12 seconds remained, but turned it over.
Turnovers are another reason to explain how the Cavaliers made a 63-point turnaround from the 45-point loss in Roanoke. In that game, Carroll committed 25 turnovers. In the rematch, Jackson’s team had just seven turnovers compared to 13 for Patrick Henry.
“I don’t know how to explain it, but there is so much pressure on Micah handling the basketball and he did a terrific job tonight,” Jackson said. “Seven turnovers against that team, that is just incredible.”
Adam Horton kept the pressure on the Patriots in the third quarter, scoring nine straight points by himself at one point to put the Cavaliers up 34-26 with 4:40 left in the period. At that point, Patrick Henry coach Jack Esworthy had seen enough, electing to pull an old Dean Smith tactic – emptying the bench to make sure the starters sit and stew. It didn’t work.
Not only did Carroll extend the lead to 43-30 against the back-ups, the Patriots’ starters made just one-of-nine field goal attempts in the fourth quarter and turned the ball over six times. Meanwhile, Carroll built the lead to 58-35 heading into the final minute.
Horton led Carroll with 21 points and nine rebounds, while Haynes added 16 points and nine rebounds. Hodges added 10. Those three also combined for seven offensive rebounds, all of which seemed to translate into second-chance points for the Cavaliers.
In the end it equaled sweet redemption in several ways. Not only had the Cavaliers avenged the 45-point blowout at Patrick Henry, they did it while fighting off one of their biggest weaknesses. Carroll had let several leads slip away this year against pressing teams in the fourth quarter, including blowing a 27-point advantage a week earlier in an overtime loss to Pulaski. On top of it all, nobody can press quite as effectively as an athletic Patrick Henry team.
“It is hard to even describe. What we talked about in the locker room, we have been through a lot this year, close losses and just so many games where we were right there against good teams and couldn’t quite get over the hump. We were just kind of waiting for everything to completely click, and for whatever reason tonight it did,” Jackson said. “I couldn’t be more proud of these guys. We had guys who were sick, not feeling well out there playing a ton of minutes. It is hard to explain. They just came to play tonight. It is really inexplicable, that big of a turnaround.”
As the clock melted away on the inevitable Carroll victory in the final minute, there was still one more chapter to add to the Senior Night “Miracle.” With time running down under 10 seconds, Tyler Van Campen found a wide-open Austin Wolford under the basket. Wolford promptly took the pass and bounced the ball off the glass for two points – the first of his varsity career in his final regular season home game. Carroll’s bench exploded with emotion after the basket and the team mobbed Wolford near midcourt as the final buzzer sounded.
“I guess that is Austin’s first points of the season and I guess his first points ever in varsity basketball, so to come on Senior Night, that’s kind of a storybook ending. This group got their ninth win tonight and that is the most wins they’ve ever had in school basketball, that group of seniors, and it couldn’t come on a more perfect, special night being on Senior Night. You couldn’t write it better than that,” Jackson said. “We talked about it yesterday, and at the end of practice I told them, ‘If you guys can just imagine what you would feel like if you beat P.H. on Senior Night, you will never forget it for the rest of your lives.’ And sure enough they did. It’s a pretty amazing feeling.”
P. Henry 10 12 8 12 – 42
Carroll 10 13 20 17 – 60
Patrick Henry – Thomas 3 2-4 8, Harris 2 1-2 5, Logan 3 2-2 8, Bryan 1 0-0 2, Pannell 0 3-6 3, Joyce 2 0-0 4, Woody 3 0-0 7, Stockstill 2 0-0 5. 3-pointers – Logan 2, Woody 1, Stockstill 1.
Carroll County – M. Johnson 3 2-3 9, Horton 7 6-8 21, Hodges 2 5-6 10, Haynes 5 6-6 16, Wolford 1 0-0 2, Williams 1 0-0 2. 3-pointers – M. Johnson 1, Horton 1, Hodges 1.
Blacksburg 63, Carroll Co. 57
Adam Horton and Garret Haynes combined to score 43 points, but Blacksburg rallied to defeat Carroll County 63-57 Feb. 7 in a River Ridge District game at Blacksburg.
Carroll led 36-33 at halftime and by as much as eight points. Blacksburg took a 50-49 lead heading into the fourth quarter, however, and held on for the six-point victory.
Horton led all scorers with 22 points, while Haynes added 21 points for the Cavaliers. Antonio Houston paced Blacksburg with 20 points and Jacob Verbrugge scored 15.
Carroll County is scheduled to host a Conference 24 Quarterfinal on Feb. 13 against Bassett. The game is set to begin at 6 p.m.
Carroll 24 12 13 8 – 57
Bburg 16 17 17 13 – 63
Carroll County – Horton 22, Haynes 21, Bowman 6, M. Johnson 4, L. Johnson 4. 3-pointers – Bowman 2, Haynes 2, Horton 2, M. Johnson 1, L. Johnson 1.
Blacksburg – Houston 20, Verbrugge 15, Shelton 11, Johnston 9, Roccaforte 6, Cianelli 2. 3-pointers – Roccaforte 2, Verbrugge 1, Houston 1, Shelton 1.