Round two went to William Fleming.
Eight days removed from a 69-54 loss to Carroll County on the same floor in the Conference 24 Championship, the Colonels employed a 2-3 zone and used a late 3-pointer from Que King to defeat the Cavaliers 48-45 Saturday in the Region 4A West Championship in Hillsville.
And while Carroll County (23-4) suffered its first loss in 25 days, the Cavaliers hope to follow the same path blazed by William Fleming (22-5) last week en route to the regional championship. After losing to the Cavaliers on the same floor, the Colonels logged more than 1,000 miles and 15 hours on the road last week in wins over Sherando, Freedom, Loudon Valley and Carroll County to win the regional title.
“(William Fleming’s coach) made a huge statement when we beat them here last week about there are bumps on the road but you are still on the road. We have kind of reiterated that to them and they get it,” Carroll County head coach Marc Motley said. “They are going to Salem next week to play (in the state quarterfinals) and they are going to be the higher seed. I think our kids will be ready to play.”
Fleming, which played mostly a man defense in the first meeting between the two schools, used a 2-3 zone that completely befuddled Carroll for the first three quarters. The Cavaliers shot just 28.1 percent (9 of 32) for the first 24 minutes as Fleming built a 35-26 lead heading into the fourth game. Considering the slow pace of the game and the Cavaliers’ inability to penetrate or get clean looks from outside, the 9-point Fleming advantage seemed more like a 20-point cushion.
But then junior Keely Lundy caught fire from the outside, drilling four of her school-record tying seven 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. Lundy and Gracie Davidson each hit treys to open the final period, pulling Carroll to within 35-32. After a 4-0 Fleming run, Lundy knocked down two more triples to bring Carroll within a point at 39-38 with 3:47 to play.
Mariah Carter’s layup off a Lundy assist gave Carroll its first lead of the game. After Fleming countered with a basket, Lundy busted her fourth 3-pointer of the quarter, putting the Cavs in front 43-41.
“(She was) shooting the ball like J.J. Redick. It was amazing. And I became a fan of the game watching her shoot the ball. Even though I am the visiting team, I am cheering on the inside like, ‘Woo, she hit another one,” Fleming head coach Champ Hubbard said. “But at the same time our defense held strong and we didn’t get too startled and we stayed focused when it counted and we pulled it out. We had a 9-point lead I believe going into the fourth quarter and for her to hit those threes and bring them back, that is the sign of a real star player.”
A pair of Mattie Kennedy free throws extended Carroll’s lead to 45-42 with 2:09 to play. After a string of Fleming misses and a turnover, Lundy fired up another 3-pointer with about 1:10 left to play that missed the mark. Dasmine Kasey would hit a pair of free throws with 49.7 seconds left to bring Fleming to within a point. Lundy missed a free throw with 34.9 seconds left, setting up King’s go-ahead 3-pointer from the corner with 21 seconds left.
“I would definitely like to have that one back,” Lundy said of her final 3-point attempt. “I was on a roll and I just let it go.”
Trailing 47-45 with 10 seconds left, Carroll drew up a play out of a timeout that found Mariah Carter under the basket for a layup. Her shot was just a little strong, however, against Fleming’s huge size inside, allowing the Colonels to come away with the 3-point win.
After getting torched for 69 points in the conference championship game in a man defense, Hubbard said his coaching staff decided to go with a 2-3 zone to try to limit Carroll’s scoring opportunities.
“They run really good man sets and that comes from experience. We played against them and saw that they were beating us off the dribble. Our coaching staff decided it was better to go into the zone, and we can move just as fast in the zone as opposed to trying to play man, but we weren’t expecting (Lundy) to shoot the ball from the daggone hashmark,” Hubbard said. “We played man the first time and they took advantage of it. It is kind of hard to guard them one-on-one and not get contact. We are kind of used to playing in Northern Virginia where they don’t worry about contact until we come back to the Roanoke area. You put your hands on them and you have to be careful with your hands. You have to beat them with your feet instead of your hands. We were using our hands and they just weren’t calling the calls last game so we made the adjustment this game and played mostly zone and made them come to us and try to figure out how to score.”
Lundy said the Cavs knew Fleming would switch things up from the conference title game.
“We knew this was going to be a really hard game, especially beating them (before) it was going to be rough. We didn’t know what they were going to do but we figured they were going to switch it up on us because Mattie had a really good game driving to the basket in the Conference 24 championship,” Lundy said, adding that she thought Carroll would bounce back from the loss. “We just need to put this game behind us and get our wind back. It’s unreal being this far in the game, so we might as well just take it on home.”
Motley wanted to thank the fans for the incredible atmosphere they provided for all three region games over the past week.
“You look at the crowd that we have, you have done something well. When you have a crowd like this at a girls’ basketball game, you know you are doing something right and the kids are doing stuff right,” Motley said. “I can’t thank these people coming out enough.”
Carroll will now face King’s Fork (25-4) in the 4A State Quarterfinals on Friday, March 4 at 6:45 p.m. at the Salem Civic Center. Motley said the opponent is athletic, likes to play a 1-2-1-1 press and get up and down the floor. The Bulldogs also have three talented post players, Motley said. Despite the loss, he doesn’t think the Cavaliers will lose the high level of confidence they’ve been playing with the last couple of weeks.
“We could have laid down when we were down nine and things weren’t going our way, but this group right here, I am not sure a year or two ago that wouldn’t have happened. But right now I’m out here with mostly juniors and seniors,” Motley said. “These kids are veteran kids, they’ve been through a lot of stuff and they have had some tough losses this year. The two Hidden Valley losses were tough, lost both in the last 30 seconds of the game and lost another in the last minute right here. But that is part of growing up and maybe we get better because of that.”
And besides, Carroll County’s softball team also lost last spring in the region championship game before going on to capture the first team state title in school history.
“We did bring that up in the locker room and Gracie (Davidson) was the first to point that out,” Motley said of the senior, a member of the state title softball team.
W. Fleming 9 8 18 13 – 48
Carroll Co. 7 8 11 19 – 45
William Fleming – Bryant 3 0-0 8, King 5 1-2 12, Johnson 0 2-2 2, Kasey 1 6-7 8, Manning 1 0-0 2, Brown 1 0-1 2, Bates 7 0-2 14. 3-pointers – Bryant 2, King 1.
Carroll County – Lundy 7 0-0 21, Davidson 1 0-0 3, Kennedy 1 5-8 7, Carter 3 0-0 6, Holt 0 0-2 0, Turman 3 2-2 8. 3-pointers – Lundy 7, Davidson 1.
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on [email protected]