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Boys Basketball: Cavaliers work through 'pre-game jitters,' clip Falcons

WINFIELD — South Carroll started its Class 2A West Section 1 quarterfinal without much rhythm on offense, and the score proved that after the first quarter.

The Cavaliers finished with just 10 points going into the second, but started to string together successful offensive possessions and pulled away to a 51-32 victory over visiting Winters Mill.

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“I think we had pre-game jitters — we haven’t played in nine days and Winters Mill was getting out in passing lanes and we just had to settle down,” South Carroll coach Jim Carnes said. “I thought the thing that kept us in the game was our defense, throughout the game it was as well as we’ve played all year.”

Despite the low offensive output from the Cavs, Winters Mill only led by one point going into the second quarter. South Carroll (13-10) played aggressive defense and clogged up passing lanes, and put the pressure on the Falcons before halftime.

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The Cavs held Winters Mill (2-20) to just two points in the entire second frame and forced seven turnovers. Many of those turnovers were steals that led to fast-break layups. Josh Kaye finished with three steals while Cody Parks and Dylan Graham each tallied two.

That defensive dominance contributed the South Carroll’s offense fining a rhythm in the second quarter. The Cavs turned the ball over six times in the opening quarter and just eight times in the final three quarters.

“We just had to take care of the ball and maybe slow down a little bit, and just make sure we made smart plays and didn’t rush the offense,” Parks said. “Defense is the most important thing, defense creates offense, it’s the flow of the game … and it just gets everything going.”

South Carroll's Josh Kaye moves the ball against Winters Mill.
South Carroll's Josh Kaye moves the ball against Winters Mill. (Ken Koons/Carroll County Times)

South Carroll defeated the Falcons in both regular-season matchups, and a trio of double-digit scorers propelled the Cavs on Friday. Kaye led the way with 16 points and Parks had 15, while Graham found open looks in the lane to contribute 10.

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The balance of scoring between the three leaders was reflective of the way South Carroll moved the ball throughout the contest. Once the Cavs settled in, they remained patient and waited for teammates to spring open and get quality shots.

“When we move the ball it helps us a lot because it creates lanes, it creates open 3s, you drive and dish and all of our plays start working if we do what we’re supposed to do,” Kaye said. “They have to account for all five guys, they can’t just focus on two, we have five threats on the floor at all times.”

The Falcons couldn’t recover from the second quarter in which they were outscored 16-2. Devin Callahan paced them with 13 points.

Winters Mill likely has a number of players returning next year, and coach Devon Lesniak said he saw some improvements as the season went on.

“I definitely thought in the second half of the season we competed a lot more than we did in the first half of the season and that’s what we were looking for with a young inexperienced team, so I was happy with that, but this is a tough way to go out,” Lesniak said. “You have to give it up to South Carroll, they played extremely hard and that caused a lot of our turnovers … they did all the little things and that propelled them to the win.”

The Cavaliers will need to take care of all the little things Monday night when they travel to top-seeded Oakdale for sectional semifinal.

“We have to stay aggressive and keep playing hard, we have to work,” Parks said.

Winters Mill (32): Devin Callahan 13, Alex Barnes 8, Chandler Gentzel 5, Terren McDonald 4, Nico Graham 2.

South Carroll (51): Josh Kaye 16, Cody Parks 15, Dylan Graham 10, Matt Gamble 7, Mason Gavin 2, JJ Blazek 1.

Halftime: SC, 26-13.

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