With a sea of Brentsville fans looking on, Carroll County's Alyssa Ervin (seven first half steals) prepares to lock up the Tigers' star Alden Yergey.

Ervin, Carroll County too much for Brentsville in Class 3 Championship

The Brentsville Tigers had a memorable season that included a victory over their personal nemesis, Meridian, and a first-ever berth in the Class 3 State Title Game. A victory over defending champ Carroll County wasn’t in the cards, however, as the Cavaliers prevailed, 78-41 Friday afternoon at VCU in the title match.

It didn’t go well from the start, as Carroll (28-1) jumped to a 7-0 lead. The Cavaliers started the game by consistently doubling Tigers star point guard Alden Yergey and making her get rid of the ball. Her teammates stepped up, however, as Brentsville played Carroll even for the rest of the first quarter. Tigers freshman Payton Brown buried three three-pointers early and senior Cara Volmer one, and the score was 25-18 after a quarter.

“We proved we could play with them,” said Brentsville first-year Head Coach Keyla Delaney.

Then things started to unravel as Carroll County star junior Alyssa Ervin and her teammates stepped up their game. Ervin started to pick the pockets of Yergey and really, anyone else wearing a white uniform who was remotely near her. When Brentsville (21-7) wasn’t turning the ball over, they also weren’t scoring. Only a Elizabeth Rice bucket right before halftime prevented the Tigers from being shut out in the second quarter.

Freshman Payton Brown kept the Tigers in the game early with three clutch three-pointers.

Still, the Tigers trailed 46-20 headed into the locker room.

“We lost control a little bit there,” said Delaney of the second quarter. “We were a little gassed, dealing with injuries, weren’t really able to run at full speed,” she added, referencing how Carroll’s full court pressure was able to dominate.

Ervin looked at the opportunity to lock up with Yergey, who will play her college basketball at Siena next year, as a challenge.

“I knew I had to lock her [Yergey} down,” said Ervin. “I thought I did a pretty good job…picked her pockets pretty good and got several lay-ups.”

Really, all of the Cavaliers did a good job applying defensive pressure. Ervin led the way with 29 points and eight steals, but Kalee Easter added five steals, and fellow senior Jaelyn Hagee added 19 points and three steals. As a team, Carroll had 33 points off turnovers while Brentsville only had two.

Alden Yergey had been looking forward to playing in a state title game since she was a little girl.

It was a tough way to go out for the Brentsville seniors (Yergey, Volmer, Emily Spittle, Dakota Garber), but it was a week where they and their teammates accomplished a lot. The Tigers defeated Meridian, which had beaten them 11 straight times to reach the final, all through some considerable injury and illness. Yergey, the Tigers’ leader, had previously suffered a significant foot injury that will now keep her off her feet for a good part of the next month.

Through it all, she savored the feeling of just making it to the title game.

“It was my last week being a high school basketball player,” said Yergey, who had been coming to VCU to watch the state title game since she was a little girl, and dreaming of playing in it. “So, I tried really hard [this week] to just be as present as possible. This was still a business trip, we were still all locked in what we came here for, but at the same time, just soaking it all up with my teammates…really understanding that this a moment that I will never get back.”

“All week at practice it was like, third to last practice, second to last practice…just to remind people, for a lot of people this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Marymount commit Cara Volmer (10 points) called the experience of making the state title game “crazy.”

Volmer had similar thoughts about the experience, adding that “just getting the opportunity” to play was “crazy.”

The week and championship experience meant a lot as well to Delaney, who played at Brentsville and always dreamed of making it to the game as a player but never did.

“It meant everything to me,” she said. “My goal back then as a player every single year was to make it to VCU.”

“When I got this head coaching job I told myself I was going to do whatever it took to prepare these girls to make it. And I just needed them to buy in and have confidence in me and just trust the process. And they believed and they bought in.”

“And so this last week, it’s just been awesome.”

–Chris Jollay