Carver’s season hinged on one shot Wednesday night.
After battling back and forth with St. Pius in a quarterfinals game, Carver players stood in silence as Golden Lion Everett Lane stepped to the free-throw line with his team ahead 63-60 with seven seconds to go.
The Carver faithful audibly exhaled as his first free throw clanked off the rim, leaving it a one-possession game. The Tigers’ shot at survival came down to the junior’s next attempt.
This time, Lane’s aim proved true.
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Carver fell to St. Pius 64-60 to end the Tigers’ 2016-2017 season. The loss featured a change of pace for the Tigers, as they uncharacteristically powered through the first half before coming back to Earth in the third quarter.
Carver regained itself in the fourth to get within striking distance but could never recapture what it had to start the contest.
“When you get to this point, you know the teams are going to be pretty tough,” Carver head coach Warren Beaulah said. “I just think we made a couple of plays down the stretch with mental errors that we couldn’t quite get over. It was just a hard-fought game, and we knew it was going to be like that.”
The Tigers even having a chance before Lane’s last shot was a surprise. Carver struggled down the stretch with its shot selection in the fourth quarter, allowing St. Pius to bring down rebounds and add points here and there at the free-throw line. It wasn’t until Dexter Simmons hit a 3-pointer with eight seconds left that it seemed Carver couldn’t even sniff a comeback.
It was a far cry from the way the game opened, as it seemed Carver could do no wrong against the Golden Lions.
Daniel Melvin played up to his potential throughout the first quarter, scoring 10 points to pace the Tigers’ offense. The problem was St. Pius stayed within striking distance, due in large part to its 3-point shooting.
A.J. Watts followed Melvin’s lead in the second quarter. Watts, who Beaulah has said consistently provides a spark, was electric, scoring 10 points in the eight minutes before the half. Watts’ showing helped the Tigers vacate the court with a 37-34 lead at halftime.
Melvin finished with 17 points, while Watts had a team-high 19.
Once the third quarter got underway, the script had flipped on the Tigers. St. Pius outscored Carver 14-7, leaving the Tigers down 48-44 going to the fourth and trying to figure out what had gone wrong.
“I think we came out and maybe took some shots that weren’t good shots,” Beaulah said. “Tonight, instead of being in attack mode, we settled for a lot of jump shots. When you’re not making them, it hurts you. We missed shots we had been making, and it was like fool’s gold.”
Beaulah said the tough four-point loss couldn’t overshadow what the Tigers accomplished this season. They were able to reach the quarterfinals, a feat within itself, and also captured the region championship.
It wasn’t the ending he was hoping for, but as a basketball coach, Beaulah knew it comes with the territory.
“We had a great season, and you can’t take that away,” Beaulah said. “We won some big games. It’s part of life. You have to pick yourself up and move forward.”
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports