South Carroll junior point guard Dylan Graham talks about the Cavaliers' turnaround.
South Carroll boys basketball coach Jim Carnes doesn’t particularly like to talk about last season, and it’s tough to blame him.
The Cavaliers struggled to a 5-18 record and lost too many close games for Carnes to stomach. But that hasn’t been a problem this winter — South Carroll has 12 wins heading into the regional playoffs, which begin Friday.
The Cavs, who host county foe Winters Mill in a Class 2A West Section 1 quarterfinal, are 4-0 in overtime, including a triple-OT win over Catoctin in late December. They went 8-4 in Carroll County Athletic League play, one season after going 3-9.
And they’re heading into the postseason with four wins in their last six games, three of which were decided by four points or less.
“We have had games where we have been down 15, 18 points and have come back and won,” Carnes said. “We are not bothered the pressure of a close game. The score doesn’t mean anything to us. We are not afraid of the moment. We play the same way if we are up by 20 or down by 20.”
Winning all the close games has given the team’s record a boost. The Cavaliers — led by senior shooting guard Cody Parks and junior point guard Dylan Graham — have improved to 12-10.
Carnes — in his third season back as SC’s coach after as 26-year run that ended in 2002 — is clearly enjoying the turnaround.
“It’s been a great year and I’ve had a lot of fun,” Carnes said. “Everybody gets along really well and they play very hard. We really share the ball. They are a great group of players to be around. They don’t get too high or too low.”
Balanced scoring is another reason for the Cavaliers’ success.
They didn’t have as much balance as last year, when Henry Cook, a Times first-team all-county pick, led the team in scoring (16.2 points per game) and rebounding (5.6 per game).
This year, Parks (13.0 ppg) and Graham (12.4) rank as South Carroll’s leading scorers.
Senior swingman Josh Kaye (6.7 ppg), senior guard Matt Gamble (8.1) and senior forward Kollin Pavlik (6.5) provide some scoring depth.
“When you have a big scorer, everybody is working to shut that player down,” Carnes said. “We don’t have a star and someone different is stepping up in every game. I don’t know what you do to defend against us.”
It’s not easy to defend Parks, who may be the most improved player on the team. He didn’t play that much last year, but work very hard in the offseason on his game to become a maturing sharpshooter.
Park scored a season-high 27 points in a 80-66 overtime over Century. He also had 23 points and went 12-for-13 from the free-throw line against Fallston.
“He is a basketball junkie,” Carnes said. “He plays all the time and he put in a lot of work in the offseason. I appreciate the work he put in.”
Graham seems suited for the point. He can handle the ball, shoot from the outside, and Carnes said he’s an outstanding leader. Graham finished with 20 points in the OT win over Century, and scored 26 in a loss to Westminster.
Carnes said he thinks the scoring is a bonus when it comes to Graham.
“He handles all the full-court pressure and gets us in sets for offense,” the coach said. “He is a good defensive player, too.”