By virtue of its Region IV, Division IV Championship, Carroll County’s boys’ basketball team will advance to the Group AA State Tournament for the first time in 22 years. The Cavaliers are scheduled to open state action this Sat., March 2 at 8:30 p.m.
Standing in Carroll’s way will be Region III, Division 4 runner-up E.C. Glass (19-8) of Lynchburg. The Hilltoppers advanced to the state tournament with a 72-52 win over Lord Botetourt in its regional semifinal before losing to Heritage in the regional championship game Saturday. E.C. Glass played Heritage four times this season, with each team winning two of the matchups. Glass beat Heritage in the Seminole District Tournament en route to the district tournament title.
According to E.C. Glass head coach Roy Roberson, the Hilltoppers are led by 6-9 senior center Karl Overstreet, who averages 12 points, 7 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per contest. Like Carroll County (24-2), Glass also boasts excellent guard play. Roberson said his team’s backcourt is led by 5-7 guards Jermaine Mayo and Akeem Jones and 6-0 guard Shawn Brown. The Hilltoppers are extremely deep, typically playing 10 to 11 players per ball game.
“I think it’s our depth and our unselfishness. I think we have five, maybe even as many as six kids that I would say any of them could score 15 points in a given night. It’s just a matter of who has the hot hand,” Roberson said of his team’s success this year. “If you look at our stats, Overstreet is our leading scorer, A.J. Hall and Shawn Brown all average somewhere between 11 and 12 points per game, and then my point guard Mayo and Bateman both average about eight points per game. But all of those kids have had multiple games where they have scored 15 or better. It’s somewhat atypical for me. Normally we have one or two kids that carry the scoring load.”
According to Roberson, until winning the district in 2011, the Hilltoppers had not won a district title prior to 1995. E.C. Glass last went to the Group AA State Tournament in 2011, when it fell to Christiansburg in a state quarterfinal. As far as style of play, Roberson said the Hilltoppers’ depth has allowed the team to adjust to its opponent.
“I think it depends on who we are playing. I think we adjust our style according to our opponent,” he said. “We are not typically going to be a slow-it-down type, but if we need to be patient we can certainly do that. I would be shocked if we play games in the 30s or 40s. We have the personnel to play either way.”
Roberson said the team got off to a rougher start than anticipated, going 0-3 before winning 19 of its final 24 games, with losses to Halifax (65-52), Charlottesville (81-65) and Monticello (77-70).
“We found a way to correct some of the errors and get everybody on the same page,” Roberson said.
From what he’s seen on film, Carroll County head coach Brad Hawks said the Hilltoppers are a hard-nosed team that like to get up the court and trap defensively.
“It looks they rebound well. They are fairly long and athletic,” Hawks said. “They do the little things and they are just super physical. They are well-coached and they like to run a lot of guys at you.”
One advantage the Cavaliers may have going into the game is the fact that they have already played once this year at the Salem Civic Center. Of course, that game didn’t go so well, with Carroll losing its first game after an 18-0 start to Virginia Episcopal by a score of 62-34.
“But that’s why we scheduled that game, to play in that atmosphere, to see what it is all about,” Hawks said. “Our kids will fight no matter where we play, but we knew when we scheduled that game it would help us in the long run.”
With the trip to the state tournament quarterfinal game just a little over an hour away from Hillsville, Hawks hopes the Cavalier faithful will descend upon Salem the same way they did during the Region IV Tournament in Hillsville. The crowd for the regional championship game against Salem was epic, with the gym at full capacity.
“Definitely, I hope they will come out and support us. I’ve said it all year long. Our fan base has been our sixth man here at home. It has really helped us. That really gets in the heads of other people,” Hawks said. “I have had coaches from other schools ask me how we get our student body to participate in basketball games so well. When you have other coaches notice things like that, you know it is good. I want to thank the members of the community and the student body for doing that for us.”
The winner of the E.C. Glass-Carroll County game will move on to the Group AA semifinals against the winner of Grafton-Millbrook at 12:45 p.m. on Weds., March 6 in Richmond. The state championship game is set for Sat., March 9 in Richmond.