In a conference with a home-and-away series, familiarity may not breed as much contempt as it does incentives. Teams blown out by 20 often come back to wreak vengeance on their former tormentors.
That’s one reason Carrboro’s second leg through the Mid-State Conference basketball season was so impressive. Not only did the Jaguars virtually lock up another berth in the state playoffs, they won most of their games by bigger margins than in the first time around. The exceptions were two road games: a loss at conference champion Cummings and a win at Jordan-Matthews.
“I expected everyone to be tougher the second time around,” Carrboro coach John Alcox said. “You play the first time and make adjustments. It’s not surprising to have close games.”
Carrboro ended its regular-season schedule at 14-8 overall, 6-4 in the conference, with last week’s 79-71 win against Reidsville. Solidly in third place in the Mid-State behind Cummings and Graham, the only way Carrboro could be bumped from the state playoffs would be for one of the league’s bottom three teams to win this week’s conference tournament — Jordan-Matthews (8-12, 2-5), Bartlett Yancey (6-14, 1-6) or Reidsville (6-11, 1-7).
“This gets us in, hopefully,” Carrboro center James Scott said. “Now we’d like to get a couple of wins in the conference tournament and maybe get a (No.) 2 seed in the playoffs.”
Scott was one of six Carrboro seniors — including Martin Alcox, Matt MacKinnon, Ameer Edwards, Jack Nanney and Gerald Atwater — who, barring a higher-than-expected seed in the state playoffs, played their last home game Tuesday against Reidsville.
MacKinnon led all scorers aganst Reidsville with 23 points, 17 in the second half. Scott also scored 17 in the second half and ended up with 21 points and 12 rebounds. Mahadevan chipped in 11 points.
The 6-7 Scott had scored 24 points in the first meeting at Reidsville. He drew plenty of attention the second time around, with the Rams often doubling down on him along the baseline.
“They laid out a good game plan for him,” Alcox said. “Give credit to our other guys. They were looking for him and gave him plenty of opportunities off the pass and fed him in the paint.”
Reidsville’s plan worked at first. Carrboro took an early 16-6 lead, but then missed 8 of its next 11 shots and turned over three other possessions as Reidsville surged to a 29-26 lead by halftime.
Reidsville was hot in the third quarter, hitting 10 of 16 shots — including three 3-pointers to lead by as much as 55-45.
Scott said the Jaguars were making much the same mistake they had made in a 47-42 loss to Graham four nights before.
“When we played Graham, we were coming off a big win (77-48) against Bartlett Yancey, and I think we came in a bit overconfident,” Scott said. “We were settling for 3s and some bad shots. In the second half, we stopped taking the bad shots and stopped the turnovers.”
Carrboro cranked up its defense for the final 8 minutes and finally stopped Reidsville’s Eric Poteat. He scored 14 points in the second half, but none after his final 3-pointer for a 58-49 Reidsville lead with 7:44 left to play.
The Jaguars held Reidsville to 4-for-18 shooting in the game’s last 7:30.
Carrboro used a 15-1 run in the fourth quarter to take the lead for good. Scott tied the game for the last time, at 60-60, with a short jumper with 4:50 remaining. MacKinnon put the Jaguars ahead 62-61 with two free throws with 3:42 to go.
The Jaguars sealed the win by making 15 of 18 free throws in the final 2:08 of play.
Alcox was happy to see his seniors end on such a strong note. He could remember when Carrboro basketball won less than 10 games total in its first three years as a fledgling program. Last year, his team finished 23-4 overall and 16-0 in conference games.
“It’s a bit overwhelming to think about where we’ve been and where we’ve come,” Alcox said. “It looks like we’ll get an opportunity to play in the state playoffs for a second straight year.
“These seniors have come a long way. They’re helping to build a real tradition here at Carrboro.”