Down six with about two minutes left in the third quarter against a much bigger and more athletic Oak Hill Red team, Carroll County’s boys appeared destined to suffer their first basketball loss of the season Jan. 29. But it was precisely at that time when the Cavaliers showed why they are 18-0, going on a 15-0 run over the next seven minutes to rally for a 59-51 win in Hillsville.
“I think the kids really showed good poise. We got on them in here a little bit at halftime about playing scared,” Carroll County head coach Brad Hawks said. “The second half they came out and didn’t play scared, they attacked, they looked for open guys and rebounded and boxed out better. That was the difference I thought.”
Oak Hill (15-2) banged six 3-pointers in the first half to build a 35-29 lead at the break. Scott King’s third 3-pointer made it 40-34, and the Warriors went ahead 45-39 with 1:52 left in the third quarter when Kem Ubaru drove hard to the basket and was fouled on an old-fashioned three-point play.
Because of Oak Hill’s size and athleticism, Carroll County (18-0, 5-0 SWD) elected not to press Oak Hill as much as it does against most teams. But after Ryan Gravley’s jumper, a well-timed press forced a turnover and led to another Gravley basket just before the end of the third, trimming the Warriors’ lead to 45-43.
Carroll then forced turnovers on back-to-back possessions to open the fourth, with a five-second call on the Warriors leading to a Connor Lundy 3-pointer that put the Cavs ahead for good at 46-45. Content to hold the ball with the lead, Carroll slowed things down.
After shooting 50 percent (17-of-34) through the first three quarters, the Warriors finally went cold, missing their first four shot attempts of the fourth quarter. Although Oak Hill had a big edge on the offensive boards in the first half, Carroll limited the Warriors to one-and-done on every possession in the fourth quarter.
“They were just throwing over the top of the press, and that’s probably the second biggest team we play all year unless we make it into the regional finals or state,” Hawks said. “But we just really settled it down, tried to look for the open shot, the open man. We knew if we could get some good looks we could get our guys shooting well. And defensively we boxed out a little better.”
After Gravley added a driving basket with 6:03 left to put his team up 48-45, the Warriors had to start fouling. Carroll iced the game by going 11-of-12 from the line in the fourth quarter, with Gunnar Beamer making 6-of-6 in the quarter and 10-for-10 for the night. For the game, the Cavs knocked down 18-of-20 free throws.
“That is super to shoot 90 percent for the game. You can’t ask for anything more from your guards,” Hawks said of Beamer and Gravley. “They are kind of like a two-headed snake when they get the ball…hard to press, hard to trap, hard to foul at the end. I was just real pleased with the effort.”
Oak Hill controlled the first half as King Scott and Jeff Uju each knocked down three 3-pointers in the as the Warriors continually worked the ball around until they found the open man on the perimeter. Carroll adjusted in the second half, however, and Oak Hill only made one more from downtown in the second half.
“We changed our assignments a little bit. Chris Smoot played straight man with no help on the King Scott kid, who can really play. And then we put Ryan Gravley on Jeff Uju with no help,” Hawks said of the second-half strategy. “Those two guys shot lights out in our scrimmage (with Oak Hill in the preseason). We thought it might be a fluke, but they really can shoot that good. It was just one of those things, but I was real happy with the way we responded in the second half. The kids came out with fire.”
Gravley led all scorers with 22 points for the Cavaliers, while Beamer added 13 points with his perfect free-throw shooting. Lundy drilled three 3-pointers to finish with nine points for Carroll.
“I would dare say that is the most athletic team we’ve played all year. They shoot the ball so good from outside,” Hawks said. “And their offensive rebounding, five guys go to the glass and they just punish you because they are so athletic. It was a great game for us going into Saturday’s game (with Virginia Episcopal).”
Oak Hill 16..19..10….6 - 51
Carroll14..15..14..16 - 59
Oak Hill – Uju 4 2-4 12, Scott 5 1-2 14, Ubaru3 1-2 8, Ngom 3 0-0 7, Lock 5 0-0 10. 3-pointers – Jiu 3, King 2, Ubaru 1, Ngom 1.
Carroll County – Gravley 7 7-8 22, Smoot 2 1-2 5, Beamer 1 10-10 13, Lundy 3 0-0 9, Keith 3 0-0 6, Horton 2 0-0 4. 3-pointers – Lundy 3, Gravley 1, Beamer 1.