The Carver girls knew what was coming.
Spain Park’s second shot was a 3-point attempt. And its third. And its fourth.
And if the Wolverines were going to survive this aerial assault in the Class 6A Central Regional, they were going to have to play their brand of basketball.
“I was telling my coaches, I’ve never seen a team attempt so many threes, and is pretty consistent about making them,” Carver coach Michelle Simmons said. “But the games I watched (on tape), I watched teams sit back in a zone. I thought our ‘man’ defense would rattle them a little and take away a lot of their opportunities.”
The plan worked. Spain Park shot only 25 percent from the field and hit just two of their 26 3-point attempts as Carver steadily pulled away for a 47-31 win Wednesday.
Carver (25-2) will face area rival Jeff Davis, a 62-55 winner over Prattville, in the Central Regional final at 9 a.m. Friday. It will mark the fifth meeting this season between the two teams, including a Carver victory in the area tournament finals.
“That’s just a game you have to be up for,” Simmons said. “It’s always a good rivalry. We’re going to have to be ready to play.”
Spain Park ends the season at 23-9.
“They really controlled us out on the perimeter with a lot of physical play,” Spain Park coach Michael Chase said. “Sometimes, you have the right officiated game for your style. I’m not complaining about the officiating. I always tell our kids to play the way the game is called, and we didn’t do that. Our kids need to be tougher with the basketball. They pushed us away from where we wanted to do some of our stuff.”
It didn’t happen right away. In fact, the Jaguars had the lead after a sloppy first quarter that saw Carver players miss their first 11 shots.
“It got frustrating for me, because I called timeout twice,” Simmons said. “We didn’t have the patience we really needed. I think we can penetrate, we’ve got shooters, we’ve got a pretty good inside game. We weren’t letting those things work for us. We were just jacking up shots. We weren’t getting into a half-court set.”
The Wolverines turned up the defensive pressure in the second quarter, holding Spain Park without a field goal over the final seven minutes to take a 15-12 halftime lead.
“We just had to calm ourselves and take our time,” said Carver’s Keyuanna Thompson, who led all scorers with 16 points, including eight of Carver’s 15 at the half. “We just kept on playing hard defense. We were focused on stopping them from shooting all those threes.”
Spain Park, which had made just one 3-pointer in nine first-half attempts, missed the next 14 attempts before Ashley Gaston finally connected with 3:56 remaining. By then, the Jaguars trailed 38-26.
Center Tatyana Calhoun added 10 points and five blocked shots for the Wolverines, while forward Pamela Allen had 13 rebounds and seven points to help Carver advance one step closer to the state tournament.
“My ninth-grade year, we fell a little short in the (2010 Class 5A) state championship (losing to Fairfield),” Carver senior Taja-Wana Russell said. “We’re trying to get back on track with our program. We just want to work hard and get to the finals.”