It’s rare that a loss brings out the best in a team, but that ultimately is what Carroll benefited from.
Unbeaten and No. 1 in the state in Division II, Carroll’s unblemished cruise through the girls high school basketball regular season was derailed by a 13-point loss to visiting Beavercreek last week.
“We took that loss pretty hard,” assured Carroll senior Liz Bush. “That was a humbling experience. We did some team bonding and worked extra hard in practice.”
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Pushed to the limit, Carroll rebounded from that loss to stun host Fairmont 64-60 in double overtime at Trent Arena on Monday night.
It was a non-league matchup of two of the area’s best girls programs. Carroll (16-1) dropped to No. 2 in the state poll that was released on Tuesday. Any doubt the Patriots weren’t worthy of a No. 1 seed in the upcoming sectional was erased by beating Fairmont.
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Fairmont (11-7) is tasked with righting itself after losing three of four games following a seven-game win streak. That includes a 50-43 setback at Pickerington Central, the state’s No. 1 team in D-I. That will be a challenge. Up next for Fairmont is visiting Centerville (17-1) on Saturday night also at Trent. The Greater Western Ohio Conference National East rival Elks soared to No. 2 in the D-I state poll.
The girls basketball tournament draws are Sunday. Carroll’s top spot is secured in D-II, as is Centerville in D-I. After that, Fairmont, Wayne, Beavercreek and Tecumseh should contend for high D-I seeds.
“We’ll keep plugging away and hopefully everything’s ready to go by tournament time,” said first-year Fairmont coach Jeremey Finn.
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Carroll converted free throws for its final seven points of the second OT. Julia Keller’s first of three free throws pushed Carroll ahead for good and Bush added two more in the final 13.7 seconds to clinch the clutch win. Keller led Carroll with 17 points. Bush added 14 points and Allie Stafanek 12.
Fairmont led 14-3 in the first quarter but trailed by three at halftime. Maddy Westbeld led Fairmont with 18 points. Mali Morgan-Elliott and Makira Webster each added 12 and Madison Bartley 10. Webster also had three 3-pointers.
“When you don’t play your best and you lose, that’s very disappointing,” Carroll coach Cecelia Grosselin said. “But, it exposes weaknesses. We saw things we needed to get better on. We play a tough schedule. To play Fairmont this close to the tournament is just great for our team. It just makes us better. We approached the game that way.”
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This is the fifth straight season the teams have played, with Carroll holding a 3-2 advantage. Fairmont blasted Carroll 60-38 in Game 3 last season. Fairmont owns a decisive height advantage over most opponents with Bartley (6 feet 3), Westbeld (6-2) and Morgan-Elliott (6-0). Keller is Carroll’s tallest at 6 feet.
“We knew (Fairmont) was going to be big and rebound good,” Bush said. “We worked really hard for this. We didn’t let the pressure of double overtime get to us.”
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Beavercreek 77, Springfield 34: Taylor Steinbrunner had 14 points and Maci Rhoades and Alyssa Hargrove-Hall added 13 apiece to pace the streaking Beavers (12-6), who won their eighth straight. GWOC scoring leader Mickayla Perdue had 22 points for visiting Springfield (8-9).
Waynesville 48, Monroe 42: The unbeaten Spartans (16-0) withstood a strong challenge from the host Hornets (10-6). Leah Butterbaugh and Lynzie Hartshorn each scored 11 for Waynesville, which dropped to No. 4 in the D-III state poll.
Bellbrook 50, Miamisburg 43: Mara Mescher led host Bellbrook (9-9) with 13 points and Kayla Paul added 12. Anna Long paced Miamisburg (6-12) with 14 points.
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Milton-Union 44, Tri-County North 25: Kristen Dickison had 29 points with five rebounds and six steals for the host Bulldogs (11-5).
Sidney boys 65, Wapakoneta 61: Virginia Tech commit Andre Gordon scored 42 points and became Sidney's boys all-time career points leader on Monday. He passed the mark of 1,745 points set by Dewayne McCluskey in 1988. Gordon's pair of free throws with three seconds to play sealed the win for host Sidney (12-3). Ratez Roberts, Sidney's all-time leader in rebounds, surpassed 500 for his career.
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Houston 53, Newton 52: John Leist hit the game-winning free throws with 1.9 seconds left, finishing with 19 points to lead host Houston (3-12). Ryan Mollette scored 17 points for Newton.
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WEDNESDAY’S TOP 5 GIRLS GAMES
Beavercreek (12-6) at Wayne (11-4)
Butler (9-8) at Greenville (8-8)
CJ (7-10) at Alter (9-9)
Miami Valley (10-4) at Dunbar (11-7)
Piqua (11-5) at Tippecanoe (12-5)