Things had gotten out of hand in a hurry.
Carroll had taken a modest second quarter lead at the beginning of the quarter, but had slumped to just one point in three minutes of play. During that same span Webster City had put their offense into gear. With time running out in the second quarter the Tigers trailed 18-6, which was spoiling the mood inside the Tiger gym during the season opener.
Carroll would need a comeback in order to gain their eventual 49-46 win on Monday. But the comeback could have never happened without one key component.
“We had to take care of the ball better,” said Nate Wall, a co-head coach of the Carroll girls basketball team. Wall, as well as his team knew there was only one way to get back into the game. It all started without empty possessions.
During the second quarter slump (which could have included the first quarter as well; Carroll scored just six points in the opening 11 minutes of the contest) Carroll had chances to storm ahead, but small mistakes, like picking up a dribble too soon, kept the ball, and score, in favor of Webster City.
“The problem was we kept turning the ball over just about every other possession,” Wall said. “You limit your opportunities when you do that. I think the girls did a good job of understanding that they needed to slow down everything. We knew it was our first game, our first home game and all that deal.”
Carroll may have felt the pressure, but they turned to their senior class, led by Ashley Onken. Onken took a shot inside that fell.
After a few steals, the Tigers set up back-to-back wide open three point attempts and by half they had climbed back to within four, 18-14.
During halftime the Tigers fed off the momentum they had gained from the end of the second quarter.
That momentum bled out onto the floor in the second half.
“Their resilience was really key tonight,” Wall said. “They didn’t bat an eye at the deficit. They knew that nobody was going to do anything about the deficit except themselves. Everyone did a good job of realizing the situation and reacting to it at the right time. They did a good job of picking each other up. They also held the key, which was hanging onto the ball.”
Carroll refused to let the ball go to start the second half, even after they made early points. During the first three minutes of the fresh half, Carroll allowed Webster City to cross halfcourt, unabated exactly once. During that possession the Lynx turned the ball over with a double dribble.
Carroll surged to start the third quarter, scoring the first 10 points of the new half and taking a 24-18 lead.
“Watching film from last year Coach (Marc) Renning knew that pressure was going to be key tonight,” Wall said. “We knew they had a really good guard in (Taylor) McKinney, when the ball isn’t in her hands then things open up. So we put the pressure on all night, and tried to stay on top of the play at all times. When we were able to force them into mistakes, and not make our own mistakes that’s when the tide turned.”
Although the Tigers had captured the lead early in the third quarter, a lead they never let go of, Carroll was challenged by Webster City. Late in the third quarter the Lynx were able to get back within one point. However a steal led to an open three pointer and later a foul shot, and by the end of the quarter the Tigers led by six.
In the fourth the Lynx once again closed within just a single point. This time Gabi Hammer hit a 10-footer, and followed that up with a three to secure a six point lead.
From that point on the Lynx would never charge back at the lead, and Carroll was able to hang onto their first win of the year.