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SALEM –– Carroll County has been fueled by a loud and energetic fan base and a remarkable series of defensive efforts on its run through the postseason, but none of the fans have yet waved the capital D and picket fence sign signifying ‘defense.’ Rightly so. The Cavaliers have been playing A+ fense.
Carroll County limited Staunton River to just 13 points through three quarters – zero in the third – and notched a 42-27 win in the Group AA Division 4 quarterfinals Saturday at the Salem Civic Center.
The state tournament win was the program’s first after five opening-round losses in the past dozen or so years, and it propelled the Cavaliers (23-4) into the state semifinals Tuesday (yesterday) at VCU’s Siegel Center in Richmond.
“This was their goal at the beginning of the year and they’re at it,” Cavalier coach Marc Motley said. “We just want to go a couple of more steps.”
Those next two steps would be steep ones, first a semifinal against two-time reigning state champ Millbrook, winner of 78 straight games, and then potentially Courtland (29-0).
“We’ve always lost in the first round and we wanted to come in and show who Carroll County is this year because we have a good team and I feel like we have a good chance to win state,” said senior Lindsay Martin, who had 19 points and 11 rebounds against the Eagles. “Our fans and our community are a big part of this. You saw how many people we had out there and I just hope they follow us to Richmond.”
Carroll’s defensive effort would be a hard act to follow. University of Delaware recruit Jodi Salyer was 0-for-9 from the field, 6-1 post Shanesia Robinson was held to nine points, including a banked-in 3-pointer from the top in the final minutes, and Martin herself outscored Staunton River 15-13 through three periods. She and Motley credited Emily Hiatt and Rachel Sellers for the shutdown.
“Emily’s a huge part of this,” said Martin. “She’s probably our best defensive player and she did an awesome job on Jodi Salyer.”
Sellers stepped in when 6-1 post Shyann Dalton picked up two early fouls and held her own despite being outsized in the post.
“I thought she did a tremendous job on the defensive end,” Motley said. “She boxed out and she gave very few offensive rebounds.”
Carroll’s main focus going in was keeping Salyer, a tall, talented guard, from penetrating.
“We did a really good job keeping her out of the paint,” Motley said. “I think she had two free throws in the fist half.”
Holding the Eagles to half their season scoring average shouldn’t have been a huge surprise for Carroll County, which limited state semifinalist Salem to nine first-half points in the Cavs’ previous game.
“That’s been our M.O. all year,” Motley said. “We’ve defended.”
The Cavaliers trailed 6-4 before taking the lead for good with a 14-0 run keyed by two Martin 3-pointers. Salyer hit two foul shots with 1:21 left in the half but the Eagles wouldn’t score again until more than 90 seconds into the fourth quarter. Staunton River, which shot 21 percent for the game, only managed nine attempts in that span.
“They were getting all over us,” said the Eagles’ Brianna Holdren, who scored 11 points.
Carroll County only scored six third-period points itself – the bulk of which came on a 4-point play by Martin – but Crysta Guynn opened the fourth quarter with a trey for a 31-13 Cavalier lead.
“I told them, ‘Girls, if you keep them in the 40s you’re going to win the ballgame,’ but we could not make a basket,” Eagles coach Kim Jones. “Missing layups we don’t normally miss, and to not score a point in the third quarter, that just killed us.”
Motley said his team was extremely focused coming into the game. Least fazed by the atmosphere was Martin.
“She loves it when the lights are on,” Motley said. “She just absolutely loves to play basketball. She’ll play in the back yard just as hard as she’ll play here.”
Motley hoped Saturday was the just another in a series of firsts that so far include a region title and a state tournament win.
“This is what we’ve wanted all year,” he said. “You just want a shot to get there and now we’ve got our shot. It’s what we make of it.”
Staunton River......6 7 0 14––27
Carroll County.......8 14 6 14––42
Staunton River (16-10)
B.Holdren 4 2-4 11, Salyer 0 5-8 5, Hoag 0 0-0 0, Robinson 4 0-2 9, D.Holdren 1 0-0 2, Bryant 0 0-0 0, Mitchell 0 0-0 0, Miller 0 0-0 0, Tuck 0 0-0 0, Brown 0 0-0 0. Totals 9 7-14 27.
Carroll County (23-4)
Hiatt 0 0-0 0, R.Dalton 3 0-1 6, Guynn 3 0-0 7, L.Martin 4 8-11 19, S.Dalton 3 0-0 6, Alderman 0 0-0 0, Caldwell 0 0-0 0, T.Martin 1 1-2 3, Hash 0 0-0 0, McCann 0 0-0 0, Sellers 0 1-3 1, Willard 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 10-17 42.
Three-point field goals – Staunton River 2-12 (B.Holdren, Robinson), Carroll County 4-20 (L.Martin 3, Guynn). Rebounds – Staunton River 29 (Robinson 10), Carroll County 36 (L.Martin 11). Assists – Staunton River 4 (Salyer 2), Carroll County 4 (R.Dalton 4). Turnovers – Staunton River 13, Carroll County 12. Team fouls – Staunton River 17, Carroll County 15. Fouled out – none. Technical fouls – none.