CHINA GROVE — The ascent of the Carson girls basketball program wasn’t a rocket. It didn’t happen overnight but it doesn’t happen at all without Allison Blackwell and Kelly Dulkoski.
Last year’s breakthrough season included a trio of all-county players and a 23-4 record and a tie for first place in the North Piedmont Conference. It included a huge win against North Iredell and a top-10 ranking in the state early in the season. Their freshman season, Carson was 11-16 but Blackwell showed promise as the team’s leading scorer. Dulkoski was there too as the second-best player in the county averaging 16.3 points a game. She was NPC Player of the Year. The duo celebrated their college signing choices recently at the school’s library with Blackwell choosing Catawba and Dulkoski Kennesaw State. Their sophomore season, the team showed promise with an 18-7 mark.
“From the program that we’ve built, those two have played such intergal roles in our program being where it is right now,” Carson coach Brooke Misenheimer said. “They came in as freshman and made an immediate impact.”
Blackwell averaged 10 points a game last year and has 790 career points as a Cougar, currently third in the program’s history behind Chloe Monroe (856) and Dulkoski (841). Carson’s posied for another good season this year with
“It’s been really neat to see the program build and see everybody get better,” Blackwell said.
The 5-foot-10 forward’s athletic prowess extends beyond hoops as she’s fresh off helping the volleyball team to a run to the state championship match.
Catawba provided a familiar environment for Blackwell, who didn’t really consider other schools. Catawba went 19-11 last year and fell in the quarterfinals of the SAC Tournament. The long-range shooter wanted to keep close distance to China Grove. She says she’ll have to get stronger to play well in college.
“Coach [Angie] Morton seemed like a really good coach and I didn’t want to be far from home,” Blackwell said. “Coach Morton seemed similar to coach Misenheimer.”
Blackwell and fellow senior Dulkoski, who signed with Kennesaw State, are the first players from the program to sign to play in college. They’re both back as seniors that want to reign the conference.
“The main thing is to win our conference tournament and the christmas tournament,” Blackwell said. “I want to go hard on every possesion.”
Dulkoski will be more of a shooting guard in college after running the show at point guard for much of her career. She’s an excellent spot-up shooter as she showed in a 32-point night against East Rowan last season that featured six 5-pointers in the first quarter. Her athleticism isn’t lost on anyone either as she reached the state individual tennis final and is a 4x800 relay team member in track.
“Kelly has played the point really more out of necessity for us,” Misenheimer said. “She’s such a good ballhandler. I think that’ll give her an opportunity to do what she does best — shoot and score.”
Blackwell has played just about everywhere since she’s been at Carson. The Cougars have usually had a small lineup with Blackwell’s role coming at forward. Her coach plans to bounce her between guard and forward this year. The Cougars hope to win their conference tournament this season in addition to battling with NI for league supremacy. Last year’s Salisbury/Carson final in the Moir Christmas Classic was one for the ages in a 71-67 Hornet win. Blackwell and Carson want another shot at the Hornets.
“That’s going to make her more versatile and give her different opportunites to play at the college level,” Misenheimer said.
“I couldn’t ask for a better experience,” Blackwell said.
Carson started its season with an overtime loss at Central Davidson and a win against Hickory Ridge.