Carriers have hoop dreams all year long

  • Highlands siblings Reid and Jordan Carrier lit up the twine for the Highlanders basketball teams this season.
    Highlands siblings Reid and Jordan Carrier lit up the twine for the Highlanders basketball teams this season.

Jordan and Reid Carrier are a lot alike in many ways. 

They are about the same height.

Both look entirely at ease holding a basketball.

And neither ever met a shot they didn’t like. 

“Reid’s the better three-point shooter,” Jordan said after pulling up a piece of Kelsey-Hutchinson Park lawn for a socially distant talk Friday afternoon. 

Blue skies.

Lots of sunshine.

Shorts weather. 

A great day to be outside.

The good life, were it not for the looming gray cloud of COVID-19 hanging overhead. 

The Carriers though, are nonplussed. 

“I have a hard time remembering what day it is,” Reid said of life post-school, which closed in early March. “I get to sleep in until 10 a.m. every morning. That is great.”

Jordan enjoys the time at home, but misses hanging out with her friends.

“No bills. No worries. We have it easy right now,” she said.

“I Facetime with my friends a lot,” Reid added. 

The 2019-20 school year is kaput for all intents and purposes as the spring sports schedule was suspended and school canceled until May 15. Reid is set to play for a pair of travel basketball teams, Team Switch and the Hot Shots. Jordan is playing on a travel team with other players from Highlands coached by Hayley Borino’s dad Gene.

“I don’t know the name of the team but all the Highlands players are playing.”

Both are limited in where they can shoot around with the school gym and rec center off limits due to COVID-19 social distancing. 

“We’ll play the occasional game of HORSE in the driveway,” Reid said, who admitted they both take a back seat to dad Mike, who has the best outside shot of the three. “Dad’s got a good outside shot, but he’s been struggling in one-on-one matchups due to a torn meniscus. He has no lateral movement.”


Jordan eager for senior year

Jordan said while the 2019-20 season didn’t have the best of starts, the team finished well, winning 12 of their final 15 games, winning both the regular season Little Smoky Mountain Conference Championship and the Tournament Championship as well. The Lady Highlanders advanced to the Sweet 16 of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1A state tournament before falling to Alleghany in a heartbreaker, 50-46.

Jordan earned All LSMC Co-Player of the Year, an honor she shared with Blue Ridge’s Charlotte Sherrill. 

Carrier averaged a little more than 14 points per game, scoring 397 points over the course of the 2019-20 season. She shot an even 30 percent beyond the arc and 75 percent from the foul line. Inside the arc, Carrier shot 42 percent. 

She can shoot it from everywhere. 

Heading into her senior season, Carrier sits at 950 career points with roughly 30 games remaining. While the 1,000 Point Club doesn’t occupy her thoughts, she is aware of the inevitable milestone. 

“I should get it, hopefully, in December,” she said. 

She is ambivalent about continuing her playing career into college, wanting instead, to go to a larger school like Georgia or Florida. 

“I’ll play intramurals maybe,” she said. 

But there’s still an entire season of her scholastic career still to play.

Carrier wants her team to pick up where it left off at the end of last season… playing good basketball and winning.

“We got hot over the last month of the season,” Jordan said. “We played with confidence. We had balanced scoring on offense. Everybody scored at one time or another. It was either me, or Hayley Borino, or Julia May Schmitt. Kedra McCall would make the plays on defense. The Bryson twins scored a lot. Freshman Ezra Bradham got a lot of playing time and did really well.”

Jordan said her team knew it could play against anyone… and win.

“Going into the state tournament we knew we could go deep and we did.”


Learning from losing

Making it as far as the third round and Sweet Sixteen, Highlands traveled to 27-4 Alleghany. The Lady Highlanders lost 50-46 to end their season with a 17-12 record, a game to a player and coach, they felt they should have won. 

“It was a tough pill to swallow,” Jordan said with a smile. “We knew we could win that game. We knew we should have advanced.”

Lady Highlanders Coach Jacob Page hopes his team will draw upon that loss going into next season. He’s counting on Carrier to take his team to that next level in 2020-21.

“Jordan is a great talent, but an even better person,” he said. “She was Co-Player of the Year in the LSMC and a two-time All-Conference Player, but the scary thing is that she can still get better. She has the mentality of not settling for just being good, she wants to be great.”

Page said he is counting on his junior forward to step into the role of leader for this team during her senior season. 

“She is going to work at it and become one of the leaders on this team that we need her to be,” Page said. “She will continue to work to get better. One thing that makes her a great basketball player is that she is very smart. She can really shoot the ball well.  When she shoots, I always think it is going in. She is also a great competitor. She wants to win and she is going to do whatever the team needs for us to win.” 

Page said he was very proud of the basketball player that she has become and will continue to become. 

The sting of the Alleghany loss has stayed with her all spring and will continue to motivate her throughout the summer. 

“We can’t wait for next season to start,” Jordan said. “We know we can play with anybody. We are still a young team. We can win it all if we believe in ourselves.”

Another regular season and tournament championship is expected and a deeper run into the state tournament. 

“The confidence we played with at the end of this season will carry over into next season,” she said.


Reid shines

In his first full season of varsity play, sophomore Reid Carrier made quite the splash in the Little Smoky Mountain Conference. Voted to the LSMC All Conference team, the younger Carrier put up 549 points in his inaugural regular season of varsity play, more than 600 including the tournament, including a school record 43 points in a 65-63 loss to Franklin. Of the team’s more than 1,400 points, Reid accounted for nearly half of them.

“I love to shoot,” he said, working a little ball-handling magic by spinning a basketball on his fingertips. “I love the game. I can’t get enough of it.”

Reid wants to play basketball on the collegiate level, anywhere they’d take him. With 549  points under his belt already in the 24-game regular season, the 1,000 Point Club is a no-brainer with two varsity seasons remaining. 

With the 43 points against Franklin, Reid quickly but the burden of scoring on his shoulders. Coach Brett Lamb said teams started planning their defensive schemes to focus on the Highlands scoring threat. 

“Teams were changing up their defenses to key on Reid,” Lamb said. “But he still found ways to score.” 

Reid found no difficulty scoring, regardless what defensive schemes opponents threw at him.

“Teams were meeting me at half court,” he said. “And I’d just take a couple steps back and shoot.”

Averaging 22.9 points per game, Carrier was the only Highlander to average in double figures for the season. He also led his team in assists with 3.5 APG and tied for the team lead in rebounds averaging 4.5 RPG tying with Gig Chalker for the team lead.


A rebuilding season

He knew going in this would be a rebuilding season, but the team had goals it aspired to meet.

“We lost eight seniors including five senior starters,” he said. “We knew we’d be rebuilding this year, but we still wanted to win the conference and the tournament and get a home game in the state tournament.”

Two-out-of-three wasn’t bad. 

“Because of our record going in we drew Lincoln Charter in the first round, on the road,” Reid said.

In the game’s first eight minutes, the Eagles put up 31 points and never looked back.

“We knew they’d be good, but we had no idea they’d be that good,” he said. “They hit everything.”

Next year will be better, Reid said. 

“We have everyone coming back.”

Until then, it’s social distancing, sleeping in and some basketball out in the driveway.