By Jordan Miller
The Carrollton Lady Warriors clinched a share of the Northeastern Buckeye Conference (NBC) in front of a standing room only crowd last week with a decisive win over Louisville.
The Warriors share the title with Louisville. The two teams traded wins during the season and have unblemished marks against other league foes. Earlier in the season, the Lady Leopards defeated the Warriors 42-31 at Louisville. Carrollton handed the Leopards a 57-41 loss last week.
It is the second NBC title in the last three years for the Warriors.
In the title game last week, the Lady Warriors were in command from tipoff, breaking down the Louisville defense and disrupting the offense.
Ali Poole brought the ball up court for Carrollton in the team’s first possession and attempted a three-pointer that was off the mark. Cailee Husted came down with the rebound and put it back up for the bucket. The Lady Warriors led 2-0 from the start.
Louisville’s Sarah Lairson gave her team their only lead of the night with a corner three-pointer on their first possession.
Husted brought the ball up the court and weaved in and out of defenders on her way to the basket for a layup. Mikayla Poole then pulled up and made a jumper for the Lady Warriors.
Carrollton finished the first quarter on a 10-2 run and took a 14-5 lead heading into the second stanza.
Carrollton struck first in the second period with two free throws by Husted. As Louisville’s Lairson took the inbound pass and dribbled across the half court line. Angela Starre was able to snatch the ball away, heading the opposite way which led to an Ali Poole bucket. Louisville’s offense committed 17 turnovers in the game.
Louisville responded with a two-point shot to cut the lead to 18-7.
On the next possession, Warrior Roz Pridemore found herself unable to get a good shot off under the basket so she dished the ball to Mikayla Poole behind the arc. Poole put up the three-point shot that swished through net.
With Carrollton leading 21-7, Louisville called a timeout with 6:11 left in the opening half hoping to ice the Carrollton offense and gather their thoughts. After the timeout, the Leopards finished the opening half by outscoring the Lady Warriors 16-6 in the final five minutes.
The run was ignited by two free throws by Alexa Oberster and two back-to-back layups by Emily Hollifield.
Louisville went into the locker at halftime with the momentum in their favor as Lairson sank a shot as time expired. The Lady Leopards trailed 27-23 at the break.
Louisville inched within two points to start the third period with an Abby Beaver bucket. The Lady Warriors went on an 8-0 run to gain some breathing room. The winners held a 35-25 advantage before the Lady Leopards took a timeout.
After the timeout, Mikayla Poole connected with her sister, Ali Poole, for a triple, one of her four three-pointers in the game. Later in the quarter, Ali Poole sank another three-pointer.
Carrollton held a 43-29 lead heading into the final quarter.
The Lady Warriors outscored the Leopards 14-12 in the fourth quarter to preserve the win.
With less than 10 seconds remaining in the game, the countdown began.
The fans, the student section, players on the bench and the coaches all rose to their feet applauding as the clock hit zero and the crowd roared with excitement.
“It felt like everything we had done all season long to put ourselves into position to win NBC had finally paid off,” said Carrollton senior Ali Poole.
When asked to reflect on the feeling of playing her last game in the CHS gymnasium she noted, “it really hasn’t hit me yet. I thought I would cry especially with all of the family ties I have on the basketball team but everyone was too focused on getting that last “W” to think about it. I’m really glad Roz (Pridemore) and I got to go out the way that we did, playing as hard as we could and getting a piece of the title.”
“When the game was over, it was a proud moment,” said Carrollton Coach Craig Rodgers. “It’s not easy to win in the NBC. Our league is filled with great competition. I was so happy for what these girls have accomplished this year. They deserved every moment of last night.”
When asked how the Lady Warriors were able to pull away from the Leopards despite the attempted comeback, Rodgers said, “We got a little lackadaisical in our movement on defense. They were able to penetrate on us, get into the middle and get second chance opportunities because of our lack of rebounding.”
“I think we did a good job of keeping our composure when they made a run,” noted Rodgers. “They rattled us a little but we were able to regain our focus in the third quarter and build a lead back up.”
Rodgers finished off by saying, “Ali and Roz have been super role models for our team and for them to play their last game in that environment was something special. We have to continue to stay hungry. Winning an NBC championship is a great honor, but now we have to move forward. It is one and done now. Every game has to be our best from here on out.”
The winners finished the regular season 17-5 overall.
Carrollton will travel to Ohio University Belmont in St. Clairsville. Feb. 11 in the Division II combined sectional/district tournament. The Warriors, the No. 3 seed, will face the No. 22 seed, the East Liverpool Potters. The game tips off at 6 p.m.