Savvy seniors, clutch free-throw shooting leads Carroll to repeat girls basketball sectional title

Carroll's Kelli Damman, left, defends Northrop's Morgan Hughes on a drive to the basket Saturday in the Class 4A sectional championship game at Carroll. (Photo by Reggie Hayes of
Carroll's Kelli Damman drives to the basket against Northrop's Alicia Tiney-Williams on Saturday at Carroll. (Photo by Reggie Hayes of
Carroll's Julia Miller, right, rises for a shot on Saturday at Carroll. (Photo by Reggie Hayes of
Northrop's Arielle Thatcher drives to the basket Saturday at Carroll. (Photo by Reggie Hayes of

The Carroll Chargers are built for fourth-quarter pressure, so don’t be surprised when they thrive on it.

Carroll is back in the Class 4A girls high school basketball regional for a second-straight season after its 81-66 sectional championship win over Northrop on Saturday at Carroll. The win avenged a regular-season loss to Northrop and displayed all of the assets that make the Chargers a postseason threat: savvy coaching, seniors galore and clutch free-throw shooting.

“These seniors really deserve it,” Carroll coach Mark Redding said. “They’re the ones who put the time and effort in. It’s easy to rest on laurels when you win one, but when you come back and work as hard as they did, and win the second one, that’s just as nice.”

Carroll (19-6) will face South Side (22-4) in a regional semifinal at Kokomo next Saturday. Zionsville (19-5) will play Carmel (24-2) in the other regional semifinal.

Carroll jumped on top of Northrop early Saturday, building a 31-17 lead midway through the second quarter. Northrop tightened it up after that, cutting the lead to five by halftime, and staying within five entering the fourth quarter.

Carroll scored the first seven points in the fourth quarter, and then was able to turn it into what Redding labeled a “free-throw contest.”

With five seniors on the court, and all strong at the line, Carroll converted 19 of 24 free throws in the fourth quarter to gradually pull away. Northrop (20-4) beat Carroll 68-58 when the teams met Nov. 17 at Carroll.

“We kind of knew we didn’t play our best the last time we played them, and we lost,” Carroll senior Kelli Damman said. “So we knew we had to change some things. We knew coming in, we had to play our game and play the way we did. We played tough and with heart and got the job done.”

Damman led Carroll with 25 points. She hit 12 of 14 free throws, including 8 of 10 in the fourth quarter. Senior guard Laney Steckler scored 19 points (9-of-10 free throws, hitting all eight fourth-quarter attempts), seniors Alyssa Kimes and Macy Miller added 11 points apiece and senior Julia Miller scored seven. Those five seniors are all in the starting lineup.

Carroll hit 29 of 38 free throws.

“We know how to play when we have a lead and that helped us,” Damman said. “That kept us calm and able to move the ball rather than force shots.”

Northrop was led by Arielle Thatcher with 20 points and Niomi Dube’ with 17. Mackenzie Snyder scored 10. Alicia Tiney-Williams struggled with four trouble and was limited to two points.

Carroll reached the regional level last season, falling to Carmel in a semifinal game.

The Chargers lost to South Side twice this season, losing 83-74 in the Summit Athletic Conference holiday tournament and 70-67 in a regular-season conference game on Jan. 19.

“We’re ready for time No. 3,” Steckler said. “We’re ready to redeem ourselves. Last time, we dug a hole at the beginning of the game and we had to fight back. Hopefully, this time we can come out strong and make it a game the whole time.”