King’s Fork parlayed five third quarter turnovers into eight points Friday, rallying from a seven-point halftime deficit to defeat Carroll County 55-51 in a 4A State Quarterfinal at the Salem Civic Center.
Carroll County (23-4) turned the ball over just four times in the first half to build a 28-21 lead at the break. The Bulldogs adjusted with a smaller lineup, however, and turned up the defensive pressure after intermission. Constantly pressing the Cavaliers, Carroll struggled to get the ball past midcourt in the third quarter, with four of the five turnovers in the period leading to easy baskets, allowing King’s Fork to take a 38-36 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“We gave them a couple of easy baskets on turnovers in the backcourt. We can live with turnovers, but the live ball turnover that turns into two points – our defense is our staple and if we are turning the ball over in the backcourt, we can’t guard it,” Carroll County head coach Marc Motley said. “We struggle to get back in games if we get down. There at the end (we were) trying to chase and trap and we had some success out of it, but that is just not the type of game we can play. We had some success but their pressure got to us and turned us over. That was probably the difference in the ballgame.”
Carroll County’s last lead came at 36-33 on a Madisyn Dalton layup with 1:17 left in the third quarter. King’s Fork scored the last five points of the period, however, and added four more to start the fourth to claim a 42-38 advantage. A pair of free throws each by Dalton and Mattie Kennedy tied the game at 42-all with 5:34 left, but the Cavaliers were never able to get the lead back.
“They ran 10 or 11 kids and I think they wore us down a little bit. Most teams that we play, they are playing seven or eight. They are not able to continually bring people off the bench that can run us, run us, run us,” Motley said. “And I think that’s where we had struggles a little bit. We just got tired I think.”
Although King’s Fork never led by more than four points over the final five minutes, Carroll never could quite get over the hump. After Kennedy’s driving layup brought the Cavs to within a point at 52-51 with 59.2 seconds to play, Motley’s team got a defensive stop. A tie-up gave the ball back to the Bulldogs, though, and Carroll was forced to foul. After a Cydney Nichols free throw increased the lead to two points, the Cavs turned the ball over with 16.4 second to play. Camary Harris sank two free throws with 11.2 seconds left to make it 55-51 and Carroll was not able to score in its final possession.
“I thought their coach made a really, really good adjustment. He went small to match us with us,” Motley said. “As long as he was playing bigs, we were putting them in ball screens and they were really struggling to guard us. When he went small, he was able to get enough pressure to switch those ball screens every time…And they extended it full court and they kept it. And they kept rotating players in and I thought they just wore us down. We were passing it four or five times just to get it across halfcourt. We were taking care of if then, but then we weren’t getting into our offense like we needed to.”
Carroll struggled to start the game, turning the ball over on three of its first six possessions as King’s Fork opened up an 11-2 lead in the game’s first three minutes. Kennedy broke through with a 3-pointer, however, and Haley Turman and Dalton each scored baskets to key a 7-0 run that put Carroll back in the game at 11-9.
The Bulldogs extended the lead to 19-11 on a Harris 3-pointer to open the second quarter, but the Cavs answered with runs of 9-0 and 17-2 to end the half with a 28-21 lead. Mariah Carter scored two baskets in the big run, Keely Lundy nailed a pair of 3-pointers and Jade Holt scored six of her eight points during the quarter.
“We just settled in in the second quarter. I don’t think they changed much in the first half,” Motley said. “But in the second half they went small and kept their bigs out of the game except (Amesha Miller)…They did that and made a really good coaching decision to match up with us. My hat’s off. They are very athletic.”
Kennedy led Carroll with 14 points, while Carter, Dalton and Holt all scored eight. Lundy scored seven points and hit a pair of 3-pointers, but Carroll’s strong outside shooting was limited to a 3-of-10 effort against King’s Fork.
“They did a good job closing out on us at the 3-point line. I thought we had some kids that really, really stepped up and played for us,” Motley said. “Maddie Dalton played about as well as I have seen her play all year, and Mattie and Keely always play well. Haley always plays hard. Her foul trouble may have hurt a little bit, but I just think their pressure got to us and wore us down a little bit.”
Miller led the Bulldogs with 18 points and nine rebounds, while Harris netted 15 points for King’s Fork. Despite the tough loss, Motley was still beaming with pride of what his team accomplished this season – 23 wins, a Conference 24 championship and a second-place finish in Region 4A West.
“I told my kids I don’t think I have ever been any more proud of a group of kids that I have coached. I feel like they played like warriors the last two or three weeks,” Motley said. “We are a completely different team than we were mid-to-late January. Our kids really decided that they didn’t like losing that much. Early in the year I felt like I had two or three kids who were like that, and at the end of the year I had 12. When you’ve got 12 kids who are fighting for the exact same thing, it’s enjoyable to coach, win or lose.”
King’s Fork 16 5 17 17 – 55
Carroll Co. 11 17 8 15 – 51
King’s Fork – Council 2 0-0 4, Harris 4 6-7 15, Miller 8 2-2 18, Brown 1 0-0 3, Thomas 0 0-2 0, Wethington 2 0-1 4, Nichols 2 2-4 7, Young 1 0-0 3, Dunn 0 1-1 1. 3-pointers – Harris 1, Brown 1, Nichols 1, Young 1.
Carroll County – Lundy 2 1-4 7, Dalton 3 2-2 8, Kennedy 3 7-10 14, Carter 3 2-2 8, Turman 2 0-0 4, Holt 3 2-2 8, McMillian 0 2-2 2. 3-pointers – Lundy 2, Kennedy 1.
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on [email protected]