By Mike Moore (Photo by Ryan Kerwin, JTV Sports)
Jackson — The question was a simple one, yet the answer anything but.
It had only been a couple days since the 2018 playoff run came to a close when Northwest girls basketball coach Ryan Carroll was asked to describe what the journey was like.
“I really don’t know how to explain it,” he said simply. “I don’t know if validation is the word, but when you look back at the time and effort that goes into this, for seven years we’ve kind of been building off the previous year and set our goals even higher.”
Carroll orchestrated the most successful season in program history this winter, taking the Mounties to the Class B state finals.
And now, he’s been selected as the JTV Sports Coach of the Year.
“Coaching this team was just awesome,” Carroll said. “To have the talent we did, and go into every single night knowing we had a shot to win was great. But this group was so fun, so close. Every day was joy. There wasn’t one time I wasn’t excited to get back in the gym and work with this group.”
Carroll said he knew the potential his team had as far back as last summer.
“We were at Hope College at a team camp, and we played some very good schools,” he explained. “We were there beating some of those teams. I think that’s when we sat down as a group and really started setting goals. The girls made it very clear what they wanted to do.”
Like many teams, Carroll said his girls spoke about playing for a state title.
“But they were serious,” he added. “And to hear it from them was pretty cool.”
Northwest won its first two games before stumbling in the conference opener.
“We were all business after that loss,” Carroll said. “We decided we had to go 19-1, and the more we worked at it, the more it became a legitimate objective.”
The Mounties ended the regular season on a 17-game win streak before embarking on a memorable run to last weekend’s state championship — a 64-48 loss to Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day.
“It was pretty surreal, coaching in the finals,” Carroll said. “I mean, being a basketball coach in Michigan, you’re familiar with Country Day and (coach Frank Orlando) and what he’s accomplished. But we had to approach it as any other game. We had to just go out and play.”
But the Yellowjackets played like the defending state champs they were, started quick, never trailed and never looked back, capturing Orlando his 13th career state championship.
“To be part of all this, though, I’m so proud,” Carroll boasted. “These are memories we can forever reflect on.”
Unless better ones are created next winter, when a good number of players are set to return.
“I’ve already spoken with the kids, and the coaches have started working on how we can come back stronger and better,” Carroll said. “We have a lot of talent coming back. We’re going to miss our four seniors, all who played a ton of minutes. At the same time, I don’t think we’re dreaming anymore when we talk about playing for a title. It’s a reality they want to work at. For us, we feel like we have some unfinished business.”
Mike Moore is a play-by-play commentator and Sports Writer for JTV Sports.
He’s also a Realtor with Real Estate One, specializing with buyers and sellers throughout Michigan, from the Jackson area to metro Detroit. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (313) 770-6365 with any inquiries.