With a chance to move one step closer to the Carroll County boys basketball title, host North Carroll won the opening tip last night and proceeded to walk all over South Carroll.
The Panthers scored the game's first 14 points, building their lead to as much as 23 before holding on for a 74-61 victory.
"We have an opportunity in our hands, so we just wanted to make the most of it," said point guard Shawn McDonald. "We just wanted to come out with intensity."
North Carroll (10-7 overall, 6-2 county) now controls its own destiny. Should the Panthers win their final two county games, they'll win at least a share of the title. By beating the Cavaliers (4-13, 3-3), the Panthers are now one of three teams - along with Liberty and Westminster - with two county losses.
If that wasn't enough motivation, however, the memory of last month's 80-52 thrashing at the hands of South Carroll was.
"We didn't need any other motivation," North Carroll coach Craig Abercrombie said. "The only thing worse than what happened the first time was going out and letting it happen again. We came out well."
Led by McDonald, who scored a game-high 23 points, the Panthers burst out of the gate, using their full-court press to hold South Carroll to 0-for-5 shooting with five turnovers over the first three minutes.
McDonald hit the first of his four three-pointers during the stretch and forward Kyle Reese (13 points) added four points, as the hosts jumped out to a 14-0 lead.
North Carroll, which hit eight three-pointers for the game, also created several opportunities for easy baskets off its press.
"They shot the lights out," said South Carroll coach Greg Mihalko, who got 15 points from Mike Uzzo. "They were totally sharp offensively, and defensively we had some holes we didn't clog up quick enough.
"You get behind like that real quick and you're in trouble when a team is on like they were."
"South Carroll played a little man and a little zone there, but whatever they went to we were hitting," Abercrombie said. "I think any time you can create a lot of easy shots early in the game, that helps your outside shooting."
After shooting 31 percent with 11 turnovers in the first half, however, South Carroll would make its run.
Trailing 62-41, the Cavaliers reeled off 12 straight points to start the fourth quarter with Shane Beccio scoring five and Josh Schaeffer four during the stretch.
After pulling as close as eight, however, the Cavaliers faded late, and the Panthers hit nine of 10 foul shots over the final 1:40 to clinch it.