They had an amazing run this season, but it finally ended last week as the West Carroll War Eagles fell to the Memphis Academy of Health Sciences (MAHS) Lions 56-52 on Wednesday, March 17 in the first round of the state boys basketball tournament in Murfreesboro.
The War Eagles finished with an impressive 21-11 overall record (8-2 in district competition), winning both the district and region championship titles. And before the season-ending loss to MAHS, they had racked up 12 wins in a row in a streak that started back on Feb. 1.
The Lions went on to beat Pickett County 77-57 in the state semifinals on Friday but fell 62-52 to Clay County in the championship game on Saturday.
As was reported last week, West Carroll head coach Jason Fitch said that controlling the pace of game and strong defense would be crucial, and at least for the first half of the game, the War Eagles managed to keep the Lions somewhat contained to hold the scoreboard 14-10 at the end of the first quarter and 27-24 at the half.
But the Lions never got far behind, and they pulled out front briefly a couple of times during the first two quarters.
West Carroll senior Luke Moore made the first mark on the scoreboard with a free throw about a minute and a half into the game. MAHS answered back with a basket, but then a trey from junior Jalen Anglin and two threes in a row by junior Josh Clark had the War Eagles up 10-4 in the middle of the first, after which the War Eagles maintained their lead to the end of the first period.
West Carroll was up 18-10 at the 6:30 mark of the second quarter, but then the Lions started to gain ground, tying it up 18-18 by the 2:30 mark and then pulling ahead briefly. But foul shots by Moore and Anglin and a basket by junior Andrew Huff in the last minute and a half had the War Eagles back out front by three at the half.
But things started to go south for West Carroll in the third quarter as the War Eagles went a little cold in their shooting and the Lions capitalized on it. MAHS tied it up 27-27 at the 6:11 mark, took the lead shortly thereafter, and kept edging ahead to hold a 38-31 lead by the end of the third.
The War Eagles stepped up their efforts in the fourth quarter, keeping it close on contributions from Anglin, Moore, and Jed Robinson, who hit a three at the 6:10 mark. But they never managed to close the gap completely.
Everyone was on the edge of their seats as a basket by Moore put West Carroll within three points (55-52) with just 40 seconds left on the clock. An outside shot would have tied it up at that point, but fouls sent the Lions to the free-throw line three times in those final seconds, though they only added one point. And a crucial pass interception by MAHS cut short a scoring opportunity for West Carroll with about 25 seconds left on the clock.
Moore fired off a parting shot from outside the paint as the final buzzer sounded, but even if it had gone in, it would have still left the War Eagles one point short.
This is the third time a West Carroll boys basketball team has gone to the state tournament. The War Eagles made back-to-back state appearances in 1995 and 1996, going as far as the semifinal round both years.