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SALEM –– Nobody walked into the Salem Civic Center dressed as a tropical fruit or a garden vegetable Saturday. Fittingly, the huge following that came to witness Carroll County’s first state tournament appearance in 22 years never got a chance to go nuts.
A dry spell that encompassed nearly two full quarters subdued the Cavalier faithful, stymied Carroll’s offense and propelled E.C. Glass to the Group AA Division 4 semifinals after a 61-46 quarterfinal win late Saturday night.
“We had open looks, we ran the offense we wanted to run for the most part against their zone,” Carroll County coach Brad Hawks said after the Cavaliers shot 28 percent from the floor, including 2-of-23 from long range. “We had some open looks at some 3s, and we had some layups that just got blocked. When you play against a 6-9 kid that happens a lot.”
What was shaping up to be 32 minutes’ worth of great basketball suddenly and inexplicably turned into a very one-sided affair early in the second period. Carroll County trailed 17-16 after the first quarter but opened the second with a Cody Keith transition layup. Following a 3-pointer by the Hilltoppers’ Akeem Jones, Carroll knotted the score at 20 when center Austin Horton stepped outside for a 17-foot jumper at the 5:57 mark of the second quarter.
It would be the Cavaliers’ last field goal for almost 14 minutes.
Carroll County missed its next 20 shots from the floor, a string of futility that was finally broken when Connor Lundy’s teardrop from the baseline hit home with 38 seconds left in the third quarter.
By that time, E.C. Glass had strung together a 20-4 run. Hardly on fire themselves, the Hilltoppers were just 7-of-18 during the run but yanked down nine offensive rebounds, leading to six second-chance points. Glass would own the glass on the night, 51-29.
“When you shoot 8.7 percent from the 3-point line it’s hard to beat anybody, and when you give up 22 offensive rebounds you’re just not going to win many games,” Hawks said. “They absolutely punished us on the glass.”
Carroll County trailed 45-26 when its last real chance at a comeback started with a series of hustle plays by senior Chris Smoot early in the fourth. Gunnar Beamer scored off of Keith’s offensive rebound and Smoot picked off the inbounds pass for an easy layup. Smoot’s second straight takeaway led to a free throw and a 45-31 score with 6:56 still to go.
Smoot would have either a defensive rebound, an offensive board or a steal on the next four changes of possession, but the Cavaliers couldn’t convert them into points, going scoreless again for nearly two and a half minutes. Glass knocked down 8-of-12 from the foul line over the final 3:54 to hold its lead. Other than that one brief stretch, the Hilltoppers handled Carroll’s pressure defense.
“Their guards were quicker than we were used to seeing, and they had a great game plan,” Hawks said. “Their guards were hard to guard and their big kids worked extremely hard in the paint. My hat’s off to them.”
Lundy swished a 3-pointer 56 seconds into the game and the Cavaliers successfully attacked the interior and 6-foot-9 Hilltopper center Karl Overstreet early on as the two teams traded the lead seven times in the first eight minutes.
But after Lundy’s trey, Carroll wouldn’t knock down another deep ball until Beamer’s went through with 1:19 left in the game. In between, Carroll missed 18 straight from behind the arc, giving Glass no reason to abandon its 2-3 zone for a man defense that the Cavaliers may have been more adroit at exploiting.
“Twenty-four-and-3, the second-best record in school history, I told the kids to keep their heads up,” said Hawks, who will return four of his top seven players next year. “You did something that was against the norm in Carroll County.”
Beamer led the Cavaliers with 10 points and Jones poured in 23 for the Hilltoppers, including three 3-pointers. Shawn Brown and Jermaine Mayo had 13 and 11, respectively. Overstreet, the Seminole District player of the year, was minimally effective on offense with just six points but the big guy had 14 rebounds and six blocked shots.
E.C. Glass..............17 14 12 18––61
Carroll County......16 4 6 20––46
E.C. Glass (20-8)
S.Brown 5 3-5 13, Mayo 3 3-4 11, A.Jones 7 6-8 23, Bateman 3 1-2 7, Overstreet 3 0-1 6, Vereen 0 0-0 0, Carter 0 0-0 0, T.Brown 0 0-0 0, R.Jones 0 0-0 0, Rosa 0 0-0 0, Osinga 0 0-0 0, Manual 0 0-0 0, Ragsdale 0 1-2 1, Jeter 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 14-22 61.
Carroll County (24-3)
Gravley 2 3-4 8, Smoot 1 1-2 3, Beamer 3 4-4 10, Lundy 3 0-0 7, Horton 3 1-1 7, Case 0 0-0 0, Keith 3 1-4 7, Giles 0 0-0 0, Lineberry 1 2-2 4, Dalton 0 0-0 0, Reece 0 0-0 0, Holder 0 0-0 0, Hayton 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 12-17 46.
Three-point field goals – E.C. Glass 5-14 (A.Jones 3, Mayo 2), Carroll County 2-23 (Beamer, Lundy). Rebounds – E.C. Glass 51 (Overstreet 14), Carroll County 29 (Keith 9). Assists – E.C. Glass 8 (Mayo 3), Carroll County 7 (Gravley 4). Turnovers – E.C. Glass 18, Carroll County 14. Team fouls – E.C. Glass 14, Carroll County 19. Fouled out – none. Technical fouls – Mayo.