Carroll had made just one appearance in the SAC Holiday Tournament finals in their five years in the league. It came in their very first tournament and was not without controversy in a loss to North Side.
Consider those demon exorcized in 2019. Ray Vollmer had the best game of his season and coach Marty Beasley claimed his elusive SAC Holiday Tournament title with a 60-49 win over Snider in Saturday night’s final game after a monster rebounding advantage for the Chargers.
“Its the kids. The kids wanted it. They set their mind to it early on,” Beasley said. “They are great teammates, they do all the right things in terms of representing our program the right way. Its them; it means a lot to our program but it means more to them I think right now. It’s a great night for Carroll basketball.”
“We’ve been talking about it since day one in the summer. I’m just glad it’s finally here, its done, we did it,” Carroll’s Ray Vollmer added. “It makes a big statement. I feel like we have more respect now.”
Snider was able to make Carroll’s offense uncomfortable early in the first, forcing the Chargers to start their plays up deep near the time line and forcing their guards into posting up because they weren’t getting much space on the perimeter. But the Panthers made mistakes too and it kept the door open for Carroll. In the closing seconds of the first quarter, it looked like the Panthers were ready to reclaim the lead when Karson Jenkins tapped the ball away from Vollmer, but he leaked out instead of going after the ball and Carroll retained possession. Vollmer then grabbed his own rebound and scooped in a lay-up at the buzzer for Carroll to lead 16-13.
It was almost nine minutes into the game before Michael Eley put in his first basket, a tough one in front of Carroll’s bench. Eley was the star of the semi final win for Snider and his presence was big to help come back from a quick five point deficit in the second. Sam Strycker struck back, continuing his big day, with a three pointer with 5:45 to play in the half to extend the Carroll lead to 21-18. After Strycker blocked an Aiden Lambert shot with 3:10 left, Jenkins grabbed the long rebound and knocked down a corner triple in front of Carroll’s bench, closing the gap again but the Panthers couldn’t get over the scoring hump.
Vollmer extended the lead to six at the foul stripe with two minutes left, followed some exchanging of baskets between the two teams keeping Snider stagnant in their comeback attempt. The Panthers were either knocking down big shots or making unforced mistakes as the first half closed down. Carroll lead 32-27 at the halftime break, keeping that lead hovering at their comfortable mark.
“Staying poised was the number one thing [coach Beasley] was preaching in the locker room. Control the game, control the tempo and just get out and run,” Vollmer said.
Vollmer picked up his third foul early in the third quarter, hitting Eley on a three point attempt, having to leave the game with 18 points. But momentum wouldn’t stay Snider’s way after Snider coach Jeremy Rauch picked up a technical near the five minute mark when aggressively approached by the official when Rauch wanted explanation on what he thought to be a five-second closely guarded call in favor of the Snider defense.
Jayshawn Underwood’s steal from Richie Gross and fast break lay up with 3:45 left in the third quarter but Carroll’s lead back to five but the next couple of minutes again just saw back and forth scoring from the two teams with Carroll keeping Snider at arms length. The Chargers remained content just playing a slow paced game, limiting Snider often to one shot as the Panthers didn’t look to crash the boards and Strycker consistently had quality positioning to reel in the defensive rebound.
“No,” was Beasley’s quick and emphatic response about if the rebounding advantage of Saturday night surprised him. “We’ve out rebounded everybody so far. Our guards rebound very well, Jalen is a great rebounding guard, Ryan is a great rebounding guard. If we are going to be a good defensive team we are going to need to block out and rebound the ball. They take it to heart and they go get it.”
The fourth quarter, as you could guess was much of the same as Carroll just took their time to get their shots and were able to get at the basket at will. With 5:17 left, Snider tried to get momentum with a Jenkins triple that took it down to six points, but Carroll immediately got a leak out to Ryan Preston for a lay up and one to make it back to a nine point lead the hard way.
“We work on it every day. You have to take advantage of some things,” Beasley said. “We have guys who work hard together and I’ll take that any day. They play with a chip on their shoulder, they want to prove they are a solid team and they want to compete for each other, not for themselves.”
With 3:01 left, Snider followed a Jenkins rolling bucket by getting a five second call on the Carroll inbounds attempt but again couldn’t convert on their added opportunity. The Panthers then forced a couple of shots against the hard nosed defense that Carroll was playing. On the other end, the Chargers just had too much adrenaline pushing them towards the finish line and the ball movement to go with it, getting Snider to foul out of exhaustion and frustration. Those fouls kept the Chargers parading to the foul line to close out their first SAC Holiday Tournament title.
“I just want to provide for my team any way I can and tonight was scoring. I’m just happy I could do what I did tonight. Usually its not like that, but whatever comes my way, comes my way,” Vollmer said.
Vollmer led the way with a game high 21 points, followed closely by Jackson with 20.