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Carroll County Times
Carroll County High School Sports

Boys Basketball: Francis Scott Key feels the heat in section final setback at New Era Academy

FSK head coach Ryan Kimble works the sideline during the second half of Manchester Valley's win over the Eagles in Uniontown Friday, Dec. 21, 2018.

BALTIMORE — The temperature inside the gymnasium at New Era Academy should have been a warning for Francis Scott Key’s boys basketball team.

Venturing indoors on a chilly Wednesday afternoon in Baltimore City, the Eagles were met with what had to feel like a wall of heat within the small gym. That’s how the Jaguars like it, apparently, as a sort of home-court advantage.

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Then came their defense, which at times was more intense than the heat itself.

New Era swarmed FSK and forced the visitors into too many turnovers for the Carroll County squad to mount a third consecutive postseason comeback. The Jags rolled 60-44 to win the Class 1A West Section 2 final, and ended Key’s season one win shy of reaching the regional championship game.

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The Eagles (7-18) finished with 28 turnovers, which led to plenty of offense for New Era. The Jaguars put together a balanced attack, led by 12 points apiece from guards Xavier Rivers and Ramone Johnson. But their defense carried the day, said FSK coach Ryan Kimble.

“Their pressure was harder than any of the [other] teams that we faced, and it was constant,” Kimble said. “This is not Carroll County basketball with Carroll County referees. There’s a lot more allowed down here, pushing and shoving. You’ve got to be strong.”

The Eagles committed 14 turnovers in the first half, and trailed 35-20 at the break. New Era (14-10) outscored its opponent 21-10 in the second quarter behind 11 combined points from Johnson and Diyea Little. Johnson had five points over the final 2:23, and his uncontested layup with 4 seconds to go gave the Jaguars their 15-point halftime lead.

Francis Scott Key led 7-5 late in the first quarter, when senior guard Zach Malott canned a 3-pointer from the left wing. New Era responded by outscoring the Eagles 30-13 for the remainder of the half.

Elijah Nelson and Tyree Banks had 10 points each for New Era, which advances to the 1A West final Saturday at Allegany College of Maryland in Cumberland.

Francis Scott Key had rallied in its previous two sectional playoff games — both on the road — backed by strong performances by senior forward Noah Vipond in each case. He scored 26 in a win over Catoctin last week, then poured in 28 on Monday when the Eagles knocked off Clear Spring, the section’s top seed, in overtime.

Vipond had nine of his 14 points in the third quarter Wednesday, but it wasn’t enough for a third straight come-from-behind win.

Ryan Rill had 11 points, and Vipond grabbed six rebounds. Vipond reached 1,000 career points in FSK’s regular-season finale, then scored 68 in three playoff games.

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The senior said facing New Era was difficult, but he was pleased with how the Eagles performed in the playoffs after starting the season 1-10.

“We were in a slump there toward the end of the season, but we came out and just worked our asses off,” Vipond said. “Those last two games we got big wins.”

Vipond is one of four seniors Kimble loses in the offseason, but the coach is happy with the notion of 11 returners next winter. Rill is a freshman, as are guard Jaedon Heiser and forward Liam McGrath (he didn’t play Wednesday because of an illness).

“The pride in my heart [for] this team,” Kimble said. “I’ll take this group of young men, I’ll take them anywhere, any day of the week. … They’re going to be young, and they’re going to work hard.”

Francis Scott Key (44): Zach Malott 7, Cameron Brooks 2, Jaedon Heiser 6, Ryan Rill 11, Matt Diehl 3, Noah Vipond 14, Michael Saghy 1.

New Era Academy (60): Xavier Rivers 12, Elijah Nelson 10, Diyea Little 10, Tyree Banks 10, Ramone Johnson 12, TyShawn Richardson 6.

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Halftime: NE, 35-20.


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