Norwell coach Eric Thornton and Carroll coach Mark Redding have been around awhile.
How long? Well, to the tune of a combined 698 victories over their careers.
So it is safe to say that each have experienced just about everything coaching girls high school basketball can throw at you.
When Bounce caught up with both following Tuesday’s showdown between a pair of top 10 teams in their respective classes, he wasn’t that surprised when the coaching duo sounded almost like mirror images of each other.
While Carroll won a 73-60 decision over the Knights, in a game without conference or postseason ramifications, nor is it a preview of a potential rematch with one program in 4A and the other 3A, Tuesday was all about getting better and learning what it will take to be successful come the playoffs in February.
It was a win for the Chargers, and an impressive one to boot. But the victors long term are both Carroll and Norwell.
“Eric and I talked about this (pre-game) that no matter who won, we were both getting something out of (Tuesday night),” Redding said. “Anytime you play a team like Norwell, you are going to walk off the floor knowing that you are better in the long run. That’s why we play teams like this. They help us get better.”
Redding had a lot to be happy about with his team, and also a bit that stressed him out. Carroll led by as many as 18 in the first half but led by just six at the break. The lead swelled again in the second half to 20-plus, yet the Knights fought back to force the Chargers to have to protect the lead from slipping away late.
With both teams playing similar up-tempo, pressure defense styles, ball protection was a key factor all night. Considering at times there were 10 underclassmen on the floor, the turnovers were a bit expected, but the overall level of play and talent made Tuesday’s game highly entertaining and competitive.
Exactly what the coaches wanted.
“These types of games – similar to the Hall of Fame Tournament (last week) – are games where we have to be really good, but if we are not it does not change a thing moving forward,” said Thornton. “I think it hurts us if we do not play a game like this. It does so much good for us to be stretched like this and to go through some situations where we can clean things up.
“If we don’t play this game, how do we identify what we want to do moving forward to get better? It is right there for us now.”
While Emily Parrett battled foul trouble, Taylor Fordyce (18 points) and Nevaeh Jackson (16 points) led the Chargers (12-2) offensively. The ball pressure on Norwell (11-3) was an issue all night, but in particular key stretches in each half in which Carroll was able to force turnovers and miscues, then score on the other end.
The Knights also dealt with foul trouble, as Maiah Shelton was relegated to the bench at key moments. While she led Norwell with 18 points, she was unable to be as aggressive as usual due to picking up three first-half fouls and playing the majority of the fourth with four.
Carroll has now won eight straight games dating back to a loss in late November to Penn, and Thornton said after the game that “this is the best Chargers team I have faced in my time here.” But when asked about momentum and a boost of confidence that this road win perhaps gave his squad, Redding circled back to what Tuesday night was truly about for both teams.
“I saw some things we need to get better at and I’m sure (Thornton) saw some things as well,” Redding said. “That’s what these kind of games are about, getting ready for the tournament.”
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