Overlea foils Carver again

Fourth quarter rally, led by Backles, send Falcons back to Class 2A state boys basketball Elite Eight

Published 3/3/2023 6:42 a.m. EST, Updated 3/3/2023 8:52 a.m. EST

Overlea's Tjay Backles cuts down some of the basketball net after Thursday's Class 2A North Region 2 championship game. Backles scored 11 of his 23 points in the final quarter as the Falcons top Carver Vo-Tech to advance to Saturday's state quarterfinals.

Thursday’s Class 2A North Region 2 boys basketball final between Carver Vo-Tech and Overlea had so many thrilling twists and turns, reality show producers or weekday soap opera writers would be envious.

Twice, the host Falcons faced double-digit deficits, including to start the fourth quarter, but led by an overall defensive effort and the playmaking of Tjay Backles, Overlea eked out a 75-73 win to capture its second consecutive region crown.

It wasn’t easy for the Falcons (19-4 overall) as Carver had a chance to tie the contest at the buzzer after Overlea senior forward James Robinson missed the front end of a 1-and-1 free throw with five seconds left. The Bears quickly moved the ball down the court, but David Ross’ heave between the 3-point and free throw lines at the buzzer clanged off the back of the iron to seal Overlea’s spot in the state 2A quarterfinals Saturday.

“I think we just believed in our team and stayed together,” said Falcons senior guard Kevin Harris, who scored six of his 13 points in the fourth quarter and helped spearhead the team’s full court press.

“Coming into the fourth quarter, I think we were down 11 points, we knew what we had to do to get the job done and win the championship.”

That winning formula consisted of a hawkish full court press that forced the Bears into numerous turnovers that Overlea turned into instant offense, including back-to-back steals and layups by Harris and Backles. The pressure forced Carver (18-5) to play at a faster pace offensively than it wanted to, leading to rushed possessions and poor shot selection.

“Really, it was the turnovers,” said Bears coach Alvin Parker on his team’s demise. “The turnovers and the lack of being aggressive like we were at the beginning of the game when we had opportunities to attack. We started settling for jump shots. Started trying to shoot over 2-3 people instead of letting the ball flow and let it keep moving like we did before.”

The Bears converted a staggering 23 layups in the first three quarters behind the full court and half court attacking drives of Dorrian Sands (24 points) and Christian Hilton Bey (16 points).

They produced just two layups in the final eight minutes.

Overlea used a 17-2 run, turning a 59-48 deficit into a 65-61 lead with about 4 minutes and 30 minutes left in regulation following a pull-up jumper in transition by Korey Blair (18 points). Backles (23 points) chipped in six points during the run, including back-to-back layups, and erupted for 11 points in the quarter, including a deep, step-back 3-pointer for a 71-67 lead with roughly 3:30 remaining.

Backles’ explosion came despite being largely double-teamed throughout the contest as the Bears attacked with an additional defender on pick-and-rolls or with the nearest defender as he secured the ball above the 3-point line.

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“My coaches told me that adversity’s going to hit, and I just had to play through it,” Backles said. “Just welcome all the defense and welcome all the pressure and that’s what I did. I just kept getting open and scoring.”

Backles’ last bucket of the contest was a spinning layup in traffic after he split a double team to stake the Falcons to a 75-70 lead with under two minutes to play. Kalial Colclough (18 points), trimmed that deficit to two with his second straight 3-pointer on Carver’s next possession.

After two missed free throws by Harris with just over a minute left to play, the Bears twice had a chance to tie it late on put back attempts by Sands and Hilton Bey with under 15 seconds to play. Both attempts rimmed out.

Robinson eventually ended that threat with a timely rebound, but his errant free throw set up the final attempt by Ross, who finished with 10 points that included a thunderous slam dunk to stake Carver to a 20-13 advantage heading into the second quarter. The Bears used a 10-3 run to open up a 30-16 lead with roughly five minutes left in the first half before Overlea, behind Harris, closed strong to pull to within 36-34.

Using its own smothering full court defense, as well as 12 points from Sands, Carver outscored the Falcons, 23-14, in the third quarter to lead, 59-48, entering the fourth.

But Backles, who returned to Overlea after spending his junior year at Mount Carmel, would not be denied.

“I knew I had to do it for my team. My teammates helped me out, so I just had to return the favor,” said Backles. “It just feels surreal right now.”



Carver - Christian Hilton Bey 16, Dorrian Sands 24, Kalial Colclough 18, David Ross 10, Kevbron Bennett 3, Rayvon Hassleberger 2. Totals: 31 9-17 73.

Overlea - Korey Blair 18, Tjay Backles 23, James Robinson 8, Koran Pittman 6, Marcel Battle 7, Kevin Harris 13. Totals: 31 7-20 75.

Carver Vo-Tech 20 16 23 14 - 73

Overlea 13 21 14 27 - 75