HEMINGWAY — The Carvers Bay girls basketball team faced a familiar foe in the first round of the Class A playoffs in the Johnsonville Flashes, a team the Bears had beaten by 53 and 26 points in two regular-season meetings.
It was a different story on Thursday night, as Carvers Bay had to fight off Johnsonville and its junior guard Crystal Williams for a 61-49 victory to advance to the second round.
“I think with a young team, a team with no seniors, we came into this game thinking it was going to be an easy game,” Carvers Bay coach Matthew Richard said. “In the playoffs, there is nothing easy. Nobody is going to give you anything.”
The Bears never seemed in jeopardy of losing the game, but they also found it difficult to put away the pesky Flashes, especially in the first half which ended with Carvers Bay holding a narrow 28-24 lead. It could have been worse for the Bears if not for the play of junior Desiree Green, who had 14 points, seven rebounds and six blocks in the first half.
“I think the team got the big head from the regular season,” Green said of the Bears’ first-half struggles, “but they have to understand that this is the playoffs, and teams are going to come harder.”
While the Bears never trailed after Johnsonville scored the game’s first point, the Flashes were close at halftime thanks to the play of Crystal Williams, who scored 14 of her game-high 32 points in the second quarter.
“Crystal is just an all-around great player,” Johnsonville coach Dennis Miles said. “The way Crystal goes, the team goes a lot of times. She was on tonight.”
After building a 16-7 lead after one quarter, Carvers Bay got sloppy and Johnsonville took advantage. The Flashes went on a quick 6-0 run early in the second quarter which prompted a timeout by Richard. On the ensuing inbounds play for the Bears, Williams stepped in front of the pass and sped down floor for a layup that narrowed the Bears’ lead to 18-16. But Williams left immediately after the play with a leg injury. Carvers Bay took advantage with a 7-0 run to take a 25-16 lead before Williams returned and helped Johnsonville close the gap.
The second half was more of what was expected of the Bears, who built a 20-point lead midway through the fourth quarter before Williams caught fire with 14 fourth-quarter points to keep the final margin respectable.
“First half, we didn’t do the things we normally do, the little things like rebounding, boxing out, going for loose balls. But I think we picked it up in the second half,” Richard said. “My message at halftime was if we don’t play Carvers Bay basketball, we are going to lose tonight. If we don’t play our brand of basketball, we are definitely going to lose. It is win or go home. It is playoff time.”
The Bears were missing starting sophomore point guard Quantaisha Robinson, who was out with an illness but should return for the Bears second-round playoff game.
Green finished one block shy of a triple-double for the Bears with 24 points, 13 rebounds, and nine blocks to go along with multiple assists. On several of her blocks and rebounds, the 5-foot-10 post player would corral the ball and lead a fast break that resulted in easy baskets as the Johnsonville defenders had no way to stop her.
“[Green] kind of killed us because that is kind of like them having an extra guard with that dribbling she does and getting back like she did,” Miles said. “… We didn’t have an answer for her, really. She is good.”
Junior Zaria Blain added 13 points while sophomore Anatashia Bromell had nine points and 11 rebounds for the Bears, who are now 19-3 on the season with wins over Carolina Forest, Georgetown, and Myrtle Beach. That type of success has the young Bears thinking big things.
“We are trying to get to the end and win (a state championship),” Green said.
The next step for Carvers Bay is a second-round matchup with the Bethune-Bowman – Baptist Hill winner on Saturday. Baptist Hill would host the Bears while Bethune-Bowman would play at Carvers Bay.
If the Bears are to reach their goal of cutting down the nets on March 8 at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, Green will be a key reason why.
“Desiree is one type of player that can do it all for us,” Richard said. “She is the most athletic person we have on the team. She can jump up and grab the rim right now. She can dribble like a guard, and she can jump with anybody out here. As she progresses, she will really be able to play especially on the next level.”
• JOHNSONVILLE (49) – Crystal Williams 32, Annsley Mace 3, Cayley Gunter 8, Kayla Ard 5, Shiadra Dollard 1.
• CARVERS BAY (61) – Desaree Green 24, Anatashia Bromell 9, LaQuasha Coles 8, Zaria Blain 13, Taleaa Adams 4, Tiera Young 1, Angel Holmes 2.
• 3-point goals: Johnsonville 5 (Williams 5); Carvers Bay 3 (Blain 3). Johnsonville 21, Carvers Bay 14. Fouled out: None. Technical fouls: None.
• Records: Johnsonville n/a, Carvers Bay 19-3 .