It didn’t count and they didn’t win, but Tuesday’s benefit scrimmage with Oak Hill Red may have been the best thing to happen to Carroll County’s boys’ basketball team.
Four days after getting drubbed by 29 points in the season opener against Grayson County, the Cavaliers showed tremendous improvement against a much bigger and vastly more athletic Warriors’ team. Despite being outmanned and outsized at almost every turn, Carroll County (0-1) found themselves down six points with 39 seconds left before dropping a 69-58 decision to Oak Hill Red (4-4), the Mouth of Wilson private school’s B team.
“Friday was really disappointing. We had 13 of our 14 kids playing in their first varsity game and I think they had kind of big eyes and played a little bit intimidated. They just didn’t quite know what to expect for the first game,” Carroll County head coach Tee Jackson said, referring to the opener at Grayson. “But tonight kind of shows them a little bit what they can do when they play together and the potential they have. We are starting four sophomores and a freshman off the bench as our sixth man so we are young and there are going to be ups and downs, but I thought we competed. I told them we won’t play anybody as big or as athletic as those guys the rest of the year and I was so proud of the way we rebounded and fought on the inside. I saw a lot of good things tonight.”
At first glance, it looked the Cavaliers would be in for a long night against a talented Warriors’ team. Oak Hill jumped out to a 7-2 lead and held Carroll’s one returning starter, Adam Horton, to just two points in the first quarter.
Ian Herman canned the first of his four 3-pointers of the night, however, to make it 7-5, and Carroll continued to battle despite trailing 19-12 after one quarter. Oak Hill’s lead never got bigger than 11 points in the second quarter as Horton, who finished with a game-high 27 points, started to heat up. Horton scored 12 points in the second period, including a basket with nine second left in the half to pull the Cavs to within 33-24 at the break.
“Part of what we are working on with these younger guys, they have to learn how to practice first, and the last couple of days have been better and that has started translating to the game a little bit,” Jackson said. “Tonight that showed and I think that was a direct result of having a really good practice yesterday. The intensity level was where it was supposed to be.”
Led by Christian McGray’s 23 points and Brandon Dornevil’s 21 points, Oak Hill increased its lead to 15 at 43-28 midway through the third quarter. Horton and Ryan Phillips hit back-to-back baskets to cut the lead to 11, however. Herman, who scored 16 points for Carroll, hit another 3-pointer and Horton scored off an assist from Herman and added two free throws late in the frame to make it a 49-39 contest heading into the final period.
Horton then opened the fourth quarter by dunking one home over the Oak Hill defense to chop the deficit to eight points. He added an old-fashioned 3-point play to make it 51-44 with six minutes left before the Warriors slowly built the lead back to 13 points.
Still, the Cavaliers never quit. Down 13 with just a minute left, Herman connected again from 3-point land. After an Oak Hill turnover, Weston Burcham scored off an assist from Herman to trim the Warrior lead to 64-46 with 48.5 seconds left again. Luke Johnson then stole the inbounds pass and found Burcham for another layup, making it just a six-point contest with 39 seconds remaining.
Oak Hill’s Steven Eng made one of two free throws and the Cavs had a chance to cut further into the lead, but an illegal screen foul killed Carroll’s momentum. Still, it was an impressive turnaround from the season opener.
“We have four sophomores starting and Jackson Hull is a freshman and the first man off the bench. We really struggled shooting the ball Friday night,” Jackson said. “I think we were 19 of 58 from the floor and that kind of carried over into our defense and into a lot of different areas, but tonight we were shooting the ball well, we were defending and competing, and I am proud of them. They competed all the way until the end.”
Oak Hill 19 14 16 20 – 69
Carroll 12 12 15 19 – 58
Oak Hill – Malleschitz 1 0-0 2. McGray 9 2-2 23, S. Eng 1 3-4 6, Dornevil 6 7-8 21, Saine 1 1-2 4, Teal 4 4-5 12, Richardson 0 1-2 1. 3-pointers – McGray 3, Dornevil 2, S. Eng 1.
Carroll County – Herman 6 0-0 16, L. Johnson 2 0-4 5, Hull 1 0-0 2, Horton 9 9-11 27, Burcham 3 0-0 6, Phillips 1 0-0 2. 3-pointers – Herman 4, L. Johnson 1.
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN