DAYTON — The Carroll Patriots outperformed expectations this year. With a relatively young group and a new coach, they made a run all the way to the District Finals for the first time in 21 years. Despite a solid effort Friday night at UD Arena, the Patriots weren’t able to hang with Dayton Dunbar and fell, 68-47.
Carroll coach Tim Cogan said his team was prepared for a tough challenge against the the Wolverines (23-3), who have been District Champions for the past five seasons.
“We had three key points for us — we had to keep them in front of us, we had to minimize turnovers, and we had to keep them off the boards. In the first half, we didn’t do a bad job at that,” he said. “We kept them off the boards for the most part, we didn’t keep them in front of us enough and we did have some turnovers that they capitalized on. Second half, we got a little worse on the boards.”
“They’re a great team and a great program, and I think our kids played extremely hard in this tournament,” he said.
Carroll (15-11) started the game off cold. Dunbar got out to an early 9-0, and the first Patriots basket wasn’t until three minutes into the first quarter when senior Xander Smart hit a mid-range jumper. They shot just over 36 percent from the field in the first half compared to 58 percent from Dunbar.
“We had some good looks early and we didn’t hit. First quarter, we were very cold,” said Cogan. “We had some good looks, and we told them that we have to take advantage and hit some of those, and we did not. Starting off in the hole like that, against one of the best teams in the state, is not a good thing.”
The Wolverine lead was 30-16 at halftime and remained about the same at 46-30 after three quarters. Dunbar was continuously jumping passing lanes to get steals for easy buckets, as well as getting to the rim in the half-court sets.
But Carroll fought back in the fourth. Dunbar guard A.J. Harris took a fall and hurt his ankle at the beginning of the quarter — he finished with 10 points and three steals — and that sparked the Patriots to go on a run. Smart hit a pair of free throws to make the score 49-38 with just over six minutes left in the quarter, and Jackson Jabir hit a mid-range jumper to cut the lead to single digits on the ensuing possession.
However, Dunbar caused turnovers and got offensive rebounds to quell the Patriots’ momentum. The Wolverines had 32 rebounds to Carroll’s 21.
Jabir had seven points for the night and Smart added 12. David Ivey had a game-high 16 points for Carroll. Dunbar had four players score in double figures.
Jabir talked a little about his team’s run and their season overall.
“I think it was awesome. I think that we knew we didn’t want the season to be over. We have a great team and we’re all brothers. We didn’t want to split yet. So we all played together and we decided we were going to go as far as we possibly could,” he said.
Cogan echoed those sentiments.
“It’s been very much an enjoyable ride. These young men are great kids. They’re great to be around, they worked extremely hard from the beginning, and we’ve accomplished things this year that I don’t think anybody thought we would,” he said. “They haven’t been to a district final in 21 years, so there was a lot of excitement around the program. Now that they see what it takes and what it’s about, I’m hoping that we can build a tradition here and come back year in and year out.”
The Patriots lose seniors Smart and Tony Brown.
“Two great guys, nothing but class. They were great kids. I told the team in the locker room, that those are two great kids you want leading for you. And they laid the foundation this year. We’re going to miss those two,” said Cogan.
Dunbar moves on to the Regional Finals to face Thurgood Marshall, a 49-37 winner over Cincinnati Wyoming, at 8 p.m. March 13 at Kettering Fairmont’s Trent Arena.