For 15 minutes and 55 seconds, Carroll County’s girls found themselves in a dogfight with Millbrook Thursday in a Region 4A West Semifinal in Hillsville.
Mattie Kennedy’s improbable 3-pointer off the glass gave the Cavaliers a 24-22 lead at the half, however, and ignited a 30-5 run and a 57-39 Carroll County rout. Keely Lundy found Mariah Carter for an easy layup on the first play of the second half. After three straight Millbrook (20-6) points, the Cavaliers exploded with a 21-0 run over the next nine minutes that pushed the lead to 47-25 and effectively buried the Pioneers.
“I thought it started with our execution off the very first play coming out of halftime. We got Mariah an easy basket coming out of the half and I think momentum just came to us,” Carroll County head coach Marc Motley said. “We hit that big three at the end of the half, the bank. You don’t expect that to go in. You are down one and now you are up two and you come out with the ball in the second half and you get a layup. And I think it just spearheaded from there. (To hold them to) three points in the third quarter is just huge for us.”
After Carter’s layup to open the third quarter, Millbrook’s Haile McDonald made a free throw and Amari Anthony scored on an offensive stickback to trim Carroll’s lead to 26-25. It would be the last points the Pioneers would score for nearly 10 minutes.
“I felt like on the offensive end tonight we really, really executed the basketball in the second half,” Motley said. “And we played great on the other end. This is a team that probably scored 65 or 70 points a game on average.”
After going scoreless in the first half, senior Rylee Haynes sparked the Cavaliers with three huge 3-pointers during the 21-0 run, all of them coming at crucial times. Haynes’ first trey finally gave Carroll (23-3) some breathing room, putting the Cavs up 33-25 after a tight first half in which neither team led by more than three points.
After back-to-back baskets by Lundy, Haynes struck with another dagger, banging a 3-pointer at the buzzer to put the home team in front 40-25 heading into the final period. After Carter scored a layup to open the fourth, Haynes’ final three staked Carroll to a 20-point lead at 45-25.
“That kid has been with me for four years and I am going to trust her before I cast her aside just because she is not making a couple of shots. She hit three huge threes the other night against (William) Fleming,” Motley said. “She has done that about four times this year when we were struggling. I love it for her because she is such a good kid.”
Kennedy would add a driving layup before Millbrook finally scored again with 5:15 to play. Jade Holt answered with back-to-back baskets to stretch the lead to 51-27 before the Cavaliers started to call off the dogs.
“I thought more than anything they got tired. Maybe it was the bus trip,” Motley said of the four-hour ride from Winchester.
It also helped that Carroll got the Pioneers into foul trouble. Madison Green, sister of former ACC Player of the Year and Virginia Tech star Erick Green, and starting center Haile McDonald both had two fouls by halftime, while Amari Anthony had three. Green eventually fouled out and McDonald picked up her fourth foul in the second half.
“They got into a little bit of foul trouble and that caused them to go to zone. We had seen them play a little bit of zone on film but that wasn’t their primary defense. That is not what they want to do,” Motley said. “I think they did that to try to protect (McDonald) and (Green) from getting their fourth and fifth foul. It’s hard to play a 2-3 zone when you are down because you’ve got to go out and get the basketball. They tried to trap us, tried to jump us in the half-court a little bit. They got a turnover or two, but we got about five layups, so we won that battle.”
Lundy led a balanced Carroll effort with 13 points. Kennedy added 11 points and 10 rebounds, while Haynes and Carter each scored nine. Holt contributed seven points and Haley Turman scored six.
The win was huge for Carroll in a number of ways. First, it provides the team a berth in Saturday’s regional championship game against William Fleming at 6 p.m. in Hillsville. More importantly, it most likely means Carroll will get to open the state tournament in Salem instead of what could have possibly been a long road trip for the March 4-5 quarterfinals.
“There was a lot riding on this. This had a lot to do with whether we are going to go to maybe the Siegel Center (in Richmond) or to Old Dominion or playing in Salem probably. That is probably the difference in winning tonight,” Motley said. “You lose and you lose again and you are the four seed and you get the defending state champion probably in Monacan, who is a really, really tough out. Now at least you get seeded a little bit away from them, at least a round or so.”
Beating William Fleming twice in a week will be tough in Saturday’s regional title game. But if Carroll continues to play the way it has been lately, it will be hard for anybody to knock off the Cavs.
“I feel like this team right now has an unbelievable edge about them. They’ve got that chip on their shoulder and they are glowing with confidence,” Motley said. “This is not the same time I got in November. This is not the same team I had at the Christmas break. I really think the turnaround was losing to Hidden Valley on a free throw at the end of the game. That’s been the complete turnaround I feel of the whole team. I think that completely (hacked) them off and they have had an edge about them ever since. And I hope we continue to do that for the next couple of weeks.”
Millbrook 8 14 3 14 – 39
Carroll 11 13 16 17 – 57
Millbrook – Treiber 0 1-1 1, E. Reed 3 2-3 8, L. Reed 3 0-0 7, Anthony 1 0-0 2, 5 0-4 10, McDonald 5 1-3 11. 3-pointers – L. Reed 1.
Carroll County – Lundy 6 0-0 13, Dalton 0 2-2 2, Gallimore 0 0-2 0, Kennedy 3 4-6 11, Haynes 3 0-1 9, Carter 4 1-2 9, Holt 3 1-4 7, Turman 2 2-2 6. 3-pointers – Haynes 3, Lundy 1, Kennedy 1.
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN