Another tough early-season test, another A for Carroll County’s girls’ basketball team.
Having already beaten perennial powerhouse Floyd County and defending 3A state champ Turner Ashby, Carroll County’s girls followed it up with a 48-37 victory Dec. 7 over an extremely athletic and veteran Magna Vista team in Hillsville. Though the Cavaliers appeared shaky at times handling the full-court pressure of the Warriors, Carroll County (4-0) committed just four turnovers after halftime and pulled away in the fourth quarter.
“I really missed playing them last year because of the effort they play with. They are very skilled, very under control, but very in-your-face and very physical,” Carroll County head coach Marc Motley said. “And for us to be where we want to be in late February, we have got to be able to handle that. And I thought tonight we did a pretty good job handling it. At times we struggled with it, but for the most part we handled their pressure.”
The Cavaliers did it thanks to the hot shooting of Mattie Kennedy, who drilled three 3-pointers and led all scorers with 21 points. They did it thanks to a defense that limited Magna Vista (1-1) to just 26.6 percent shooting (12-of-45) from the floor. And they did it thanks to the rebounding of Haley Turman (15 rebounds) and Keely Lundy (10 rebounds).
“I felt like Mattie just took it on her shoulders that she just didn’t want to lose. I mean she hit big shot after big shot after big shot,” Motley said “And then we had a couple of kids hit free throws down the stretch. I think Keely was 3-of-4 down the stretch. But I thought Mattie just kind of put us on her shoulders tonight and just willed us not to lose.”
Carroll built a 5-0 lead in the early going as the Warriors turned the ball over on their first five possessions. In fact, Magna Vista did not even get a shot attempt off until Maria Hairston’s basket halfway through the first eight minutes. It would be the Warriors’ only points of the first quarter as the Cavs opened up a 9-2 lead against Magna Vista’s 1-3-1 zone defense.
“Early in the game they played an aggressive 1-3-1 and I think we got that 9-2 lead and they got out of that. We actually missed some really good looks early against that 1-3-1,” Motley said. “But we knew we would we see some full court and half-court man.”
And boy did they ever. The Warriors quickly got back in the game in the second quarter as their full-court press caused Carroll to turn the ball over the first three times it had the ball in the period. A Hairston 3-pointer and a Taisha DeShazo basket brought Magna Vista back to within two points before Mariah Carter sprinted ahead of the press for a layup and an 11-7 lead with 6:15 left in the half.
DeShazo’s inside basket gave the Warriors a 14-13 lead late in the quarter, the team’s only lead of the game, before Carter responded with a baseline jumper. Then in the final seconds, Carroll grabbed a pair of offensive rebounds and Kennedy scored on a putback at the buzzer to put the Cavaliers in front 17-14 at the break.
In the third quarter, Turman and Madisyn Dalton sandwiched baskets around a Kennedy 3-pointer to complete a 7-0 run that put Carroll in front 28-18. The Cavaliers did a much better job of picking up Magna Vista’s full-court pressure after intermission.
“I felt like in the first half the only people who wanted to handle the basketball were Mattie and Keely. And in the second half we had a couple of other people step up, Rylee (Haynes) stepped up and started handling the basketball a little bit, Gracie (Davidson) a little bit when she was in there, and Mariah Carter came in and started the handling the basketball a little bit,” Motley said. “We got more people involved so when they went to double team we had extra people to pass the basketball to. They did get more involved and that made a big difference for us handling their pressure.”
Thanks to the efforts of Hairston and DeShazo, who combined for 31 of the Warriors’ 37 points, Magna Vista ended the third quarter on an 8-3 run to pull to within 31-26. Carroll put the game away, however, by opening the final stanza on an 11-3 run to go up 42-29. Kennedy sparked the run with the first five points before Carter, Haynes and Turman scored in the paint to put the game away.
In the end, it was Carroll’s defense that made the biggest difference. Magna Vista struggled to get good looks most of the night against Cavalier defenders.
“If you had told me tonight coming in we were going to give up under 40, number one, I would have thought you were crazy, but number two I would say we are going to win,” Motley said. “Right now I feel like our defense is as good as it’s been since I have been here because we are long, we move our feet, and we understand how to play the game and how to play defensively.”
Magna V. 2 12 12 11 – 37
Carroll Co. 9 8 14 17 – 48
Magna Vista – Cabiness 1 0-1 2, T. DeShazo 5 5-6 16, Adams 1 1-2 3, S. DeShazo 0 1-3 1, Hairston 5 2-3 15. 3-pointers – Hairston 3, T. DeShazo 1.
Carroll County – Lundy 1 4-6 6, Dalton 1 0-0 2, Davidson 0 0-2 0, Kennedy 7 4-5 21, Haynes 1 2-2 4, Carter 6 0-2 12, McMillian 0 1-2 1, Turman 1 0-2 2. 3-pointers – Kennedy 3.