It was an emotional night for Carroll County’s boys’ basketball team Tuesday as the remarkable careers of seven Cavalier seniors came to a close.
Playing against top-seeded John Handley in a Group 4-A North Regional Quarterfinal in Winchester, the Cavaliers fell behind 15-4 in the first quarter and 41-19 at halftime as the Judges advanced with a 76-56 victory. Led by 6-8 power forward Cameron Jackson, who has already signed with Division I Wofford College, John Handley (18-2) simply had too many weapons for Carroll County (18-7).
“The last two teams we’ve played this year have just been super athletic. When you get into the playoffs, that’s how it’s supposed to be,” Carroll County head coach Brad Hawks said. “Cameron Jackson is a true Division I post player. He has great touch, moves well and he’s strong. I was very, very impressed with him. He is a true post player, but he can step out and hit from 15 to 17 feet.”
Going in to the playoff game, Hawks said the Cavaliers wanted to surround Jackson and deny him the basketball. That plan was abandoned quickly as Jackson’s teammates started to heat up.
“We wanted to pack it in and deny him the basketball and they came out and shot lights out. We had to adjust real quick,” Hawks said. “They have a little bit of everything. They have guards that can penetrate, guys that can come in and make jump shots to go along with Jackson in the post. And they guard well, so they have all the makings for a good team.”
Give credit to the Cavaliers, however, for never giving up hope. Down 20-6 late in the first quarter, Carroll ended the opening period on a 7-0 run to trim Handley’s lead to 20-13. The Judges responded by scoring the first nine points of the second quarter, however, and opened the lead up to 41-19 at the half.
The Cavs continued to fight and battle until the final whistle. Down 59-42 entering the fourth quarter, Carroll cut it to 61-47 on a 3-pointer by Winston Giles. The Cavs nearly trimmed it to 11, but a Gunnar Beamer 3-pointer rimmed out. From there, the Judges were able to hold on down the stretch as Carroll was forced to press and foul.
“Gunnar’s three rimmed out that would have cut it to 11. That would have been big,” Hawks said. “It forced us to play a little out of control on the press to try to get back into the game.”
Jackson led four John Handley players in double figures with 24 points. Beamer scored a team-high 16 points for the Cavaliers, while fellow seniors Connor Lundy and Blake Dalton each scored 11.
While it was a tough loss for Carroll County, the team’s seven seniors certainly have nothing to hang their heads about. They have been part of one of the most successful eras of boys’ basketball in CCHS history.
Those that have played the last three seasons have been a part of 60 wins, an average of 20 wins per season. Last year, the Cavaliers defeated Salem for the first Region IV championship in 33 years. This year, Carroll followed it up with playoff wins over Pulaski County and E.C. Glass to earn a trip to the Group 4-A North Regionals despite playing in what Hawks calls one of the strongest conferences in the state, regardless of classification. Being just one of two teams to represent a conference that includes William Fleming, G.W. Danville, E.C. Glass and Salem is certainly a big accomplishment.
“I think there were 15 fewer Timesland teams that made the regional playoffs this year. I was very pleased. Nobody expected us to come out of Conference 24 with it being one of the strongest conferences in the state. I think we exceeded everybody else’s expectations,” Hawks said. “I can’t speak enough about the relationships built on this team. Last night was a real emotional night for all of us. This group has really put Carroll County back on the basketball map with the hard work they put in in AAU, in the offseason and the amount of games they’ve played. It just really made a difference in what a close knit bunch this was.”
Through it all, Hawks said the team has been aided by the tremendous support of the entire Carroll County community. Last season, the Cavalier gymnasium was packed most nights. This year, an overwhelming home crowd was also a huge factor in Carroll’s home win over E.C. Glass in the Conference semifinals.
“It wasn’t just the team and the coaching staff,” Hawks said. “It was the administration, all of Carroll County Public Schools and all of the Carroll County community. It was good to see the whole community come behind two basketball teams like they did for the boys and girls. That didn’t go unnoticed and it meant an awful lot to both teams.”
Carroll Co. 13….6..23..14 - 56
J. Handley 20..21..18..17 - 76
Carroll County – Beamer 16, Lundy 11, Dalton 11, Giles 6, Hayton 3, Bolen 3, Keith 2, Reece 2, Cochran 2. 3-pointers – Giles 2, Lundy 1, Dalton 1, Hayton 1.
John Handley – Jackson 24, Robinson 16, Morgan 12, Finley 11, Brown 7, Dearing 4, Sirbaugh 2. 3-pointers – Morgan 2, Finley 1.