Joe Carpenter, resurgent Bucks breaking records, hungry for more

·5 min read

After hounding Ponce de Leon guard Christian Russell as he tries to get the ball across halfcourt, Bozeman's Joe Carpenter forces a pass to another guard, Matthew Flynn.

Instead of just sticking with his man as his teammate and brother Josh guards the new ball handler, Carpenter races over to double team Flynn, leaping high to obstruct his view of a potential pass, then simply takes the ball away and races back to the other end for an easy layup to put the Bucks ahead 29-15.

It was a recurring theme during Bozeman's 97-56 victory over the Pirates on Thursday night: Carpenter chasing the ball all over the court, stealing it away or deflecting it to teammates, leading to quick points for Bozeman.

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"I just want the ball," Carpenter said. "I love the ball, Iike to be around the ball. Honestly, I love playing both ways, it's just that defense leads to easy offense."

That has been the mantra for the Bucks all season and it has served them well. Bozeman's win over PDL was the 18th of the year against just two losses, the most wins in a regular season in program history, surpassing the 17-7 mark in the 2012-13 season.

The Bucks can make more history with two more wins to become the first Bozeman team to ever win 20 games in a full season, which seems inevitable with five more gamers remaining against teams that the Bucks have already beaten.

Bozeman senior Joe Carpenter winds his way down the lane for two points. Bozeman hosted Ponce De Leon High School in boys basketball Thursday, January 20, 2022.
Bozeman senior Joe Carpenter winds his way down the lane for two points. Bozeman hosted Ponce De Leon High School in boys basketball Thursday, January 20, 2022.

"It's been a lot of fun," Bozeman coach Matt Granville said of his team's success. "It really comes from what we talked about earlier in the year, which was to focus on the small things and we would have a chance at the big things. I think it's because we've focused on the small things each game and each day that now we're getting a chance to do some of the big things."

That's a message that hasn't come just from the coach, but also from some of the players. Among the four transfers on this year's squad, Carpenter and fellow senior guard Lewis Lowder bring the most experience, with both being a part of last year's Mosley team that won a district championship and and a playoff game before being eliminated in the region semifinals against eventual state runner-up Choctawhatchee.

Bozeman coach Matt Granville talks with his team during a break with the Pirates. Bozeman hosted Ponce De Leon High School in boys basketball Thursday, January 20, 2022.
Bozeman coach Matt Granville talks with his team during a break with the Pirates. Bozeman hosted Ponce De Leon High School in boys basketball Thursday, January 20, 2022.

Lowder, who scored 16 points on Thursday, said that he and Carpenter have tried to bring that winning culture over to a Bozeman program that traditionally hasn't done a lot of winning in basketball and went just 14-53 over the previous three seasons.

"We're taking everything that we've learned from the past years and helping these guys like coach is helping them, so basically it's like we're giving them double knowledge," he said. "We're basically giving them more information and more ways to play the game better. We tell them to do the little things. The little things matter, the little things are the great things. You see what happens, how you can win big when you do the little things."

Carpenter did plenty of big things on Thursday as well, scoring a game-high 41 points on 15 made field goals, a pair of 3-pointers, and 9 of 11 from the free throw line. It was just two points shy of his career high and school record total of 43 points, which he set in a Dec. 10 win over Wewahitchka.

For the season, Carpenter is leading the Bucks at 22.2 points per game, almost four times the six points per game he averaged for Mosley as a junior. Never known as much of a scorer before this season, Carpenter said the role of go-to scorer wasn't one he was particularly comfortable with early in the year, but it's growing on him.

"I'm still getting used to it," he said. "I like to score, but I also like to dish the ball to my teammates. But scoring is pretty fun, I'm not gonna lie."

Bozeman senior Blake Fountain flexes after muscling up two points. Bozeman hosted Ponce De Leon High School in boys basketball Thursday, January 20, 2022.
Bozeman senior Blake Fountain flexes after muscling up two points. Bozeman hosted Ponce De Leon High School in boys basketball Thursday, January 20, 2022.

The Bucks are far from a one-man team, though. Lowder and Josh Carpenter along with Joe form a dynamic and athletic backcourt, and the Bucks have more size on the interior than they've had in recent memory thanks to 6-foot-5 junior Noa McClelland, who is second on the team at 11 points and 10 rebounds per game, 6-foot-4, 285-pound senior offensive tackle turned basketball center Blake Fountain, who is putting in nine points and six rebounds per contest, and 6-foot-6 junior Dawson Eaton.

Bozeman, which is ranked No. 6 in Class 1A by MaxPreps and is fourth in the FHSAA's RPI standings, has the pieces to not only make it to the playoffs but do some damage once it gets there, though nothing is certain in a difficult district featuring the top-ranked team in 1A in Malone.

Bozeman guard Lewis Lowder scrambles for a loose ball ahead of Pirate Isaac Spooner. Bozeman hosted Ponce De Leon High School in boys basketball Thursday, January 20, 2022.
Bozeman guard Lewis Lowder scrambles for a loose ball ahead of Pirate Isaac Spooner. Bozeman hosted Ponce De Leon High School in boys basketball Thursday, January 20, 2022.

While there is a sizeable gulf when it comes to winning tradition between Bozeman and district foes such as Malone and Chipley, Lowder said there's no reason for the Bucks to set their sights any lower than any of the other highly-ranked counterparts in 1A.

"We want to win districts and we want to win state, that's all our mind is on right now," he said. "I think we've definitely got the potential to get there. It feels great to be a part of something right now and building a winning tradition. We're on a roll right now and we're gonna keep building these winning streaks and keep going on the road to state."

This article originally appeared on The News Herald: High school basketball: Bozeman's Carpenter breaking records, setting sights on state

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