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South Carroll's Gavin McTavish follows older brother's lead

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While Ryan and Gavin McTavish were growing up in Mount Airy, a chain reaction of three noises routinely came from their household.

First, there was the repetitive thump of a bouncing basketball at the hoop near the front curb.

Then came equally persistent yapping between the competitive brothers as they played 1-on-1 for hours.

That ruckus prompted a third noise inside — the phone ringing.

"The neighbors would call and say, 'Hey, I think your boys are fighting,'" said their mother, Maureen. "I said, 'No, they're just playing basketball, they're all right.' They were always very competitive with each other, and the better they did out front, the better they did when they went to the gym and played."

The basketball record book in Carroll County proves it.

Ryan, now a sophomore guard at Presbyterian College, graduated from South Carroll in 2011 as the county's all-time leading scorer with 1,504 points. In pursuit of the mark is Gavin, who averaged 19 points to earn All-Metro first-team honors last season and is now a senior at the high school.

With the same versatile inside-outside game, the 6-foot-6 swingman is scoring points at a similar pace as his 6-5 older brother. With the Cavaliers off to a 4-1 start, Gavin now has 1,069 career points.

While the brothers always tried to one-up each other when they were younger, Gavin said catching Ryan's scoring mark is secondary to what has always been the top priority with them both: winning basketball games. Since Ryan came to South Carroll in 2007 and Gavin followed in 2009, the Cavaliers have reached the state tournament three times, and they've won the past two county championships.

"If I break it, yeah, it's a great accomplishment," Gavin said. "But I'm not going out there thinking I need to score 20 or 30 a night. If I score 10 points every time out and we win, I'd be fine with that."

Gavin has hit a number of big baskets in his four years at South Carroll, but the one that stands out the most came at the front curb one summer night before his freshman year.

Ryan was going into his junior year and had already established himself as the Cavaliers' top player and one of the best in the county. That didn't stop Gavin from making a 3-pointer to end another game of 30 that had a different outcome than the countless others.

"That was the first time I ever beat my brother," Gavin said. "To win one was great. I was like, 'I finally beat my older brother, the big high school star.' That really helped me going into high school that year. I just thought, 'Yeah, I can do this.'"

After the stunning defeat (Gavin recalls the final score was 30-25), Ryan slammed the ball on the pavement and immediately asked for a rematch. Then, as Gavin puts it: "He whupped me."

Former teammate Dan Mullen, who graduated last year after four seasons as the team's point guard, wasn't surprised by the story.

"Their competitiveness toward each other and how they would battle each other was fun to watch," Mullen said. "They definitely pushed each other, almost fighting each other. And their [striving] to be the best and win everything — even any little pickup game they were ever part of — made me and all our teammates better."

Ryan's path to the record was on a straight line.

South Carroll coach Doug Goff never kept his standout player in a game after it was decided, so Ryan spent many fourth-quarter minutes on the bench when the Cavaliers had a big lead. Coming into his senior season with 960 points, he wasn't thinking about the county mark of 1,487 points set by Herman Costley, a 1991 Westminster graduate. But a strong regular season followed by an extended playoff run put him in position to claim the top spot.

The record-setting day proved more bitter than sweet as Ryan — needing 10 points to break the mark — scored 26 in his final high school game, a 69-52 loss to Easton in the Class 2A state semifinals at Comcast Center in College Park.

"I knew before the game I would probably break it, but I didn't focus on it. We were focused on winning the game. At first, with the loss, it was kind of like not really accomplishing anything because our goal was to win a state title, but I went on to appreciate it."

Gavin was the team's primary inside threat in his first two years, playing alongside Ryan, and he was the only other South Carroll player to score in double digits in the loss, finishing with 12 points.

Fittingly, in the two years the brothers played together, they combined to score 1,504 points (Ryan with 1,018 and Gavin with 486) — the same total as Ryan's career mark.

Goff wasn't sure what to expect last season after Ryan's departure, but he knew he would move Gavin to the featured wing position with hopes he could take over the lead role.

Gavin, who worked hard on his perimeter game during the summer, didn't disappoint.

He comfortably handled the responsibility of being the go-to player, and the increased defensive attention that came with it, to lead the Cavaliers to another county championship and a return trip to the state tournament. In addition to the consistent scoring, he averaged 7.5 rebounds, 2.5 blocked shots, 1.5 assists and 1.2 steals with nine double doubles in the team's 21-5 season.

And, as he did with Ryan, Goff sat Gavin as soon as a game was well in hand.

"Two years ago when we had Ryan and Gavin, I expected us to win and expected us to get to Comcast," Goff said. "Last year, I wasn't so sure. I wasn't sure how we were going to fit, and how Gavin was going to adjust to the wing and being the main guy that teams would put one or two players on. He handled it a lot better than I expected and made the adjustments a lot quicker, which is why we won so many games."

So, just how do you defend an athletic 6-6 player such as Gavin who has developed do-it-all skills that create nightmarish mismatches?

"It's tough," Westminster coach Steve Byrnes said. "When he's out on the wing, you can't put a post player on him defensively because he'll dribble right past them, and if you put a smaller player on him, he'll post up. He can drive and finish, he can post you up and, especially at his size, he's one of the best to come off a screen and hit a shot. It's just tough."

With 17 regular-season contests and one guaranteed playoff game remaining, Gavin would have to average more than 24 points per game to surpass his brother's mark. So he'll likely need the Cavaliers to make another strong playoff run to have more games — and opportunities — to pass his brother.

When asked about the goals he has for his senior season, Gavin talked about winning another county championship and making another playoff push to return to Comcast Center. It's only when he's specifically asked about the chance of becoming Carroll County's all-time leading scorer that he talks about it.

As for the brothers, only a couple of times have they talked about the possibility of Gavin's passing Ryan.

"He's not aiming for it, but I think it would be something he would like to have," Ryan said. "If he can do it, and it would be us two as the top scorers in the county, all-time, that would say a lot for the family. I'm not going to like it, but, at the same time, I would be happy for him."

glenn.graham@baltsun.com

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