Keely Lundy’s deep 3-pointer from the right wing gave Carroll County a 29-21 lead and drove the large contingent of Cavalier faithful into a frenzy Thursday night in a Group 4A Quarterfinal at the Salem Civic Center.
But it was at that moment, when the Lady Cavaliers had just taken their biggest lead of the night, when King’s Fork would start to kick things into gear en route to a 56-47 victory.
The Bulldogs would score six unanswered points over the next two minutes. Kenda Robinson’s pair of free throws with 3.3 seconds left in the half would briefly stem the tide and give Carroll County a 31-27 lead at intermission. But King’s Fork started the third quarter how it finished the second, scoring the first nine points of the second half to take a 36-31 lead. The Cavaliers would never get closer than two points as King’s Fork’s decisive 15-2 run spanned three-and-half minutes of game action and effectively put Carroll County in catch-up mode the rest of the night.
“We gave them a 9-0 run coming out of halftime…and that was the difference in the game. They came out with a lot of energy out of halftime and we struggled to find buckets. We got some really good looks, just couldn’t get them to go down. Missed a few free throws when we needed them but their defense had a lot to do with it,” Carroll County head coach Marc Motley said. “They are very aggressive, killed us on the offensive boards, big, physical and their defense did a good job. You’ve got to credit them somewhere. They play hard. They are where they are at for a reason and they finished the game off like they are supposed to. They took care of the basketball and didn’t turn it over when we were trying to turn them over and press them, and they made free throws down the stretch for the most part.”
Carroll County (22-4) led most of the first half and built a little momentum of its own as Danielle Gallimore’s 3-pointer at the buzzer game the Cavs an 18-15 lead after eight minutes. After a Neecole Brown 3-pointer, Carroll went on a 7-0 run. Madi Dalton and Mattie Kennedy took turns scoring driving layups before Lundy’s deep triple put the Cavs up 29-21 with 2:18 left in the first half.
King’s Fork (22-5) would take control from that point, but there were several factors in the big turnaround for the Bulldogs. While Carroll outrebounded King’s Fork 33-31, the Bulldogs pulled down 14 offensive rebounds, leading to many second-chance points. Work on the offensive glass also helped King’s Fork enjoy a 62-35 advantage in shots from the floor, a huge differential that would make it tough for anyone to overcome. And finally, even though Lundy made three 3-pointers and finished with 13 points, and Kennedy scored a game-high 15 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, King’s Fork harassed both all night, making it tough for Carroll to get into its usual rhythm shooting from the outside.
“They are chasing Mattie from the time she gets the ball inbounds all over the floor, and with two and three people. And every time we try to get her a little ball screen and get her a little area the next person is there ready to help,” Motley said. “For the most part she did a pretty good job. She got to the bucket a lot and she found the open man quite often. We just weren’t able to get the ball to go in the basket enough in the second half.”
Kennedy finally stopped King’s Fork’s 15-2 run with a free throw with 4:49 left in the third quarter. A technical foul on Bulldogs’ coach Maurice Fofana led to two more Kennedy free throws and allowed Carroll to climb back to within 36-34. King’s Fork answered with a 7-2 run, however, which was briefly slowed by a Lundy 3-pointer late in the quarter to make it 43-39 King’s Fork heading into the final period.
The Bulldogs increased the lead to 49-41 with three minutes to play, but Kennedy and Lundy both scored to make it 50-45 with 1:04 left. King’s Fork made four of five free throws in the final minute, however, to advance to the state semifinals and end Carroll’s season.
“I told the kids one loss really, really hurts and everybody says at the end of the year, ‘Oh, we could have won one more.’ Everybody always says that. Unfortunately there is only one team that does that in every division,” Motley said. “But 22-4, there is a lot of teams in this state that don’t have the ability to say that is what their record was. And I told them do not take this one loss with them. Remember the other 22 games they won.”
The loss also ended the remarkable careers of Lundy and Kennedy, both four-year starters who guided Carroll County to an astounding 80 wins during that time. While those two will be sorely missed in Hillsville, Motley feels confident that the Cavalier basketball program will continue to keep running smoothly.
“Our senior class will be tough to replace, but on the other hand I have a lot of good young kids that are athletic, they are ready to play, they are ready to step into their role,” Motley said. “They haven’t got as many minutes in the last three weeks as they would have liked, but I have all the confidence in the world in those coming back. But we are going to miss those four we are graduating. They are hard, tough-nosed kids. We will have people to step up, not necessarily fill their shoes, but take their own role on a new team.”
Carroll Co. 18 13 8 8 – 47
King’s Fork 15 12 16 13 – 56
Carroll County – Lundy 4 2-2 13, M. Kennedy 4 7-9 15, Carter 1 2-4 4, Holt 1 0-0 2, Dalton 2 0-2 4, Gallimore 1 2-2 5, Robinson 0 2-2 2, A. Kennedy 1 0-0 2. 3-pointers – Lundy 3, Gallimore 1.
King’s Fork – Wethington 0 0-0 0, Miller 4 3-4 11, Nichols 4 0-1 9, Brown 3 0-0 8, Young 4 0-1 8, Smith 2 1-2 5, Harris 4 4-4 12, Copeland 1 0-0 3. 3-pointers – Brown 2, Copeland 1, Nichols 1.
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN