Two times over the first three weeks of the season, Carroll came within single digits of beating a top-7 team. On Friday, they proved neither was a fluke.
“I think that it really showed that we’re not as underrated as people say,” Carroll senior Emily Parrett said of the Chargers’ 62-58 win over No. 9 Homestead on Friday.
Despite leading by 10 at halftime Friday, it was back to square one for Carroll by the end of the fourth quarter. Two periods of overtime later, the Chargers delivered Homestead’s first ever regular-season conference loss since joining the Summit Athletic Conference in 2015.
“We’ve always had a big rivalry with Homestead. We haven’t won since 2008 against them, so it was just something that we really wanted to accomplished and we worked hard at the whole game,” Parrett said.
Carroll shocked the 4-1 Spartans early on, leading 29-19 at the half with Homestead’s Ayanna Patterson leading all scorers with eight points through the first two quarters. The 6-foot-3 senior was the only Spartan to score in the third quarter, putting up 15 points and extending that streak to 17 in the third to narrow Carroll’s lead by two. Patterson ended up with a game-high 32 points on the night.
“We finally broke a streak that has haunted us for years,” Carroll Head Coach Mark Redding remarked. “It just showed what it takes to beat a team like Homestead, and Patterson was having a great game — outstanding game. We couldn’t stop her. But I was thinking as the game was going on ‘We’re so young, we’re making young mistakes.’ At the end, we were supposed to set up a play and didn’t do it, and I’m thinking, ‘That’s my fault, we’re inexperienced,’ but this team found ways. They have a heart, particularly on defense, to stay in it.”
It was Alison Stephens who scored the final two points in regulation for Homestead, sinking a pair of free throws to tie it up 44-44 with one minute left to play. After two timeouts, the Chargers were unable to find the basket before the clock expired.
Homestead took an early lead in overtime thanks to a three by Maggie Keinsley and a free throw by Patterson. The Spartans continued to take advantage of the bonus for the remainder of the game.
Carroll’s Saniya Jackson and Nevaeh Jackson, and Homestead’s Stephens and Molly Stock, all put points on the board, with the Spartans leading by five with just over a minute left in the period. Carroll was able to manage a steal on Homestead’s end of the court. The resulting possession looked like it was going to take a turn for the worse before Carroll’s Kayla Gibbs grabbed an air ball under the basket and put it back in the hoop to make it a 3-point game.
The Spartans missed a pair of free throws on the other end, and Parrett answered with a three before the buzzer to tie it up 53-53.
“We knew we needed a three and they were playing back. It kind of just happened and it was open. And we were working hard the whole game, and that’s what really got us there,” Parrett said. “They’re a very physical team, so we obviously had to be a lot stronger mentally more than physically, so that’s what really helped us is staying calm even when things did get out of control.”
It was back and forth at the free throw line in the second overtime period. Grace Sullivan made a pair for Homestead. Taylor Fordyce made one for Carroll. Lexi Castator made two for Carroll to take the lead. Sullivan made two more to tie it up again. Finally, Nevaeh Jackson made the first basket to give Carroll a 2-point lead with just over a minute and a half left to play.
Failing to answer on their end of the court, Homestead watched as the Chargers played keep-away while running a minute off the clock, before giving in and sending Parrett to the foul line to make one of two free throws to put Carroll up by three with less than 30 seconds left. Fordyce was the next up, making another free throw to extend the lead to four with just 15 seconds left on the clock.
Patterson caught a deep pass down court on the ensuing inbound pass for one final bucket of the night with 6.9 seconds left. It was just enough time for Fordyce to make the final two free throws of the night to seal the win.
“I thought at the beginning when we played defense and we denied them the ball, I think that was the key for us because we didn’t foul, we didn’t put them on the foul line,” Redding said. “They gave us opportunities and we created turnovers, and I think that helped us. … The thing with this team is our defense gets us back. ... That’s the heart of our team. They just go out and they play hard, and they give you 100%. And they come back the next day and give you the same. That’s what I love about this team. It’s just a fun team to coach because of how hard they play.”
Parrett’s clutch three to force double overtime added to her team-high 19 points on the night. Fordyce added 12 points for the Chargers, while Patterson was the only Spartan to score in double digits.
For Redding, the win was a display of determination in the face of adversity — something the Chargers have been working at since a 51-47 overtime loss to No. 7 Hamilton Southeastern and a 67-58 loss to No. 1 Penn this season.
“We had a couple players who came in after they were having a bad night, and they came in and really stepped it up in the overtime and the second overtime for us,” Redding said. “And that says a lot for those players because generally when you’re having a bad game, you can just put your head down and say, ‘I’m done.’ But we told them, ‘You’ve got to be ready because we’re going to need you,’ and they stepped it up. That’s what we learned from the Penn and the Hamilton Southeastern games.”