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HILLSVILLE –– Gunnar Beamer and Corey Kellam put on a great game of h-o-r-s-e in the first quarter. Carroll County and Magna Vista put on a great show all night.
After leading for most of the night, Carroll County found itself against the ropes with time winding down but held Magna Vista to three points the final five minutes, rallying from a five-point deficit to survive with a 59-57 win in the Region IV Division 4 semifinals.
The win assured the second-seeded Cavaliers (23-2) of their first Group AA state tournament appearance in more than 20 years. First comes a region championship game at home tonight (Friday) against No. 1 seed Salem.
“It’s good for these guys to come back and feel what it’s like on the other side,” said Hawks, whose seniors endured some lean years as underclassmen. “I’m really happy for the guys to be able to experience something like this, to play for a region championship for the first time in 21 years. It’s something special.”
Other than a brief moment early in the first quarter, Carroll County didn’t trail through the first three periods but rarely held a lead greater than five points in the second half. Taking a 49-47 lead into the fourth, Magna Vista (12-13) appeared to have finally worn down the Cavaliers, opening the fourth quarter with a 7-0 run and taking its first lead since 3-2 when Adrian Hatfield came up with a steal and finished on the other end for a 50-49 lead with 6:45 remaining.
DeAnto Perkins also had a steal and layup, and John Harris added a putback for a 54-49 Warriors lead with 5:04 to play. But with the season on the line, the Cavaliers threw themselves at Magna Vista with a withering full-court press, allowing the Warriors just three field goal attempts in the final five minutes, forcing six turnovers and closing the game on a 10-3 run.
“We threw a press in there about three minutes into the fourth quarter and got a couple of steals and layups, and brought us back in it,” said Hawks. “That’s been our bread and butter all year, to make the game as ugly as we can.”
A pair of steals led to buckets by Beamer and Cody Keith, and another turnover resulted in two Ryan Gravley foul shots that regained the lead for the Cavaliers, 55-54, with 1:42 left.
A backcourt violation from a halfcourt trap returned the ball to the Cavaliers and Gravley penetrated to put up a tough layup with 1:04 remaining.
Austin Horton then drew a charge against Keon Mabin and Connor Lundy hit two foul shots on the other end for a 59-54 lead with 37 seconds to play.
The Cavaliers were still not out of the woods, though, as Kellam hit his seventh 3-pointer for a 59-57 game.
Magna Vista rebounded a missed Cavalier free throw with 4.7 seconds left, but the Cavaliers, not yet in the penalty, fouled at midcourt with 1.1 ticks left. Magna Vista was able to manage only a well-defender 30-footer on the inbounds play that was nowhere near the rim.
“My hat’s off to Magna Vista,” Hawks said. “They’re a bunch of classy kids, they play so hard and they really dictate how you play.”
Beamer and Kellam took turns wowing the crowd and frustrating the other’s defensive efforts throughout a highly-entertaining first eight minutes. Kellam, better know for his slashing ability, hit five straight 3-pointers in the first quarter, scoring 15 of Magna Vista’s first 21 points.
“He just came out and shot the lights out,” Hawks said. “We were playing him to be a driver and he hit five 3s in the first quarter.”
Beamer, a 5-foot-10 point guard, would appear to be more at home jacking up 20-footers, but the lightning-quick junior tore the Warrior defense to shreds with five penetrating drives and 12 first-period points.
“He was playing strong and getting to the rim, and he was really poised with the ball,” Hawks said. “He made good moves and he finished. Played very well.”
Kellam would finish with 24 points and Mabin added 12 for Magna Vista. Beamer tallied 18 and Gravley tossed in 16 for the Cavaliers.
Magna Vista..........21 8 18 10––57
Carroll County......24 10 15 10––59
Magna Vista (12-13)
Mabin 4 4-6 12, Kellam 8 1-2 24, Perkins 1 0-0 2, Ramey 1 1-2 3, Johnston 1 0-0 2, Hampton 1 0-0 3, Harris 1 0-0 2, Hatfield 4 1-2 9. Totals 21 7-10 57.
Carroll County (23-2)
Gravley 5 5-8 16, Smoot 3 1-2 8, Beamer 7 3-5 18, Lundy 1 3-3 5, Keith 2 0-0 4, Reece 1 0-0 2, Horton 2 2-4 6. Totals 21 14-22 59.
Three-point field goals – Magna Vista 8-17 (Kellam 7, Hampton), Carroll County 3-13 (Gravley, Smoot, Beamer). Rebounds – Magna Vista 26 (Mabin 6), Carroll County 25 (Keith, Horton 6). Turnovers – Magna Vista 13, Carroll County 11. Team fouls – Magna Vista 20, Carroll County 13. Fouled out – none. Technical fouls – none.