SPRINGFIELD — The jitters lasted for one quarter, then Carroll collected themselves and a lot of points in Tuesday’s 68-45 March 7 win over Columbus Independence, in the Division II regional semifinals at Springfield High School.
After a 5-all first quarter, Carroll’s depth just proved to be too much for the 76’ers. A 6-2 run to start the second quarter, and a 12-4 run to end it, put the Patriots in command the rest of the way.
“We were kinda out of rhythm early on,” Carroll coach Cecelia Grosselin said. “A new environment, new venue … I think we might’ve been a little nervous at first, but then things started to click and got going the way we wanted them to.”
Seven Patriots had scored in the first half alone, giving Carroll (23-3) a solid 25-15 lead at the break. Carroll very nearly had five players finish in double-figure scoring: Amanda Schroeder led the way with a team-high 13 points; Allie Stefanek was next with 10 points while Sydney Ingram, Julia Keller and Ellie Rumme each finished with nine. Ten Patriots scored in the game.
Senior point guard Morgan King said the team loosened up after a nervous first quarter.
“It was hard to get our composure in the beginning. Independence was very aggressive at the start, and we expected that, but once we used to their full-court press I think we were able just to keep calm and run our offense. It was good,” King said.
The loss ended the 76’ers season with a 20-6 record.
“Carroll executed their game plan, they play good fundamental basketball and they’re a really balanced team,” 76’ers coach Keith Johnson said. “They attacked our help defense really well, and we turned the ball over. So, those are things we have to work on in the future, but hats off to them. Carroll came ready to play.”
Johnson loses seven seniors with Tuesday night’s loss. Senior Sadera Johnson led the team with a game-high 15 points. Junior Kobie Burnside was next, scoring all eight of her points in the fourth quarter.
After the win, Carroll’s King said the team had her former coach in mind as well. Fourteen-year coach Rob Berry lost his battle with cancer in July, 2016.
“This means a lot to me, because in my freshman, sophomore and junior years we lost in the sectional finals to some really good teams,” King said. “This year’s been really special for us, what with the passing of Rob (Berry). Definitely a big goal of ours is to move on as far as we can and show him what we’re made of. We want to make him proud.”
Carroll, the seventh ranked team in the final D-II Associated Press regular season poll, will now get its third matchup with Greater Catholic League Co-Ed menace Kettering Alter (22-2), who defeated Tipp City Tippecanoe, 50-41, in the other regional semi in Springfield. The Knights were ranked No. 2 in the final AP regular season poll.
King said she and her teammates have been eyeing a possible rematch with the Knights. Alter, the Division II two-time defending state champions, escaped the Carroll High School gym with a come-from-behind 32-31 win on Feb. 4.
“It doesn’t really matter who we play, but we really want to beat our arch rivals, Alter,” King said. “We want to beat them in the finals. It’ll be a good competition. … Definitely meeting up again with Alter is big for us. They’re our rivals. They beat us twice, but the last time was really close. Really close! So we want a chance to play them again.”
Carroll and Alter will play for the regional championship at 7:30 p.m. Friday March 10 at Springfield High School. The winner will then advance to the state semifinals, Thursday March 16 at the Jerome Schottenstein Center, on the Ohio State University campus in Columbus.
You can reach John Bombatch at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123.