CHINA GROVE — After blowing a big lead in the second half, the Carson Cougars showed some true character in the final quarter to thump visiting Hickory Ridge Friday night 71-55.
Carson led by 12 midway in the third period when the Ragin’ Bulls ripped off a 19-6 scoring streak to lead 50-49 after three quarters.
Previous Carson teams might have folded at that point but not this year. The Cougars (2-4) went on a 22-5 tear and played shutdown defense down the stretch to win going away.
“That tells me a lot about the character of this team. We are a lot better than last year,” stated senior forward Rameiq Howard. “We have gotten stronger and more mentally tough. We really want to hang a banner this year and that is what it takes.”
It was Howard who led the fourth quarter surge with three key baskets inside some critical rebounds as he finished with 12 points and six rebounds. Junior guard Tre Williams added his own magic by hitting a short jumper then four clutch free throws in the final 1:15 to expand the winning margin. He led the win with 17 points including seven of 10 free throws for the night.
“That was a great team win for us tonight”, Coach Brian Perry noted. “To go down then to suck it up in the fourth quarter and make key defensive stops and big baskets was clutch.”
As hot as Hickory Ridge was in the third period, the fourth period evolved into a shooting nightmare as they lost their first game of the season after earlier wins over Carson and East Rowan. This trip to Rowan County was unkind to them down the stretch as they went over six minutes between field goals.
Darius Porch scored 30 seconds into the final period to give the Bulls their last lead at 52-51. They added a free throw at 3:17 but it was not until 1:15 remained that they scored again on a DJ Freeman lay-up. By then Howard, 6-6 center Colton Laws and forward Myquan Stout had done their damage inside making score 66-55.
“We played a great third quarter coming all the way back,” Bulls Coach Robert Machado said, “so to not be able to hit a shot at all in that fourth quarter is disheartening.”
The game actually featured a number of streaky runs by each team. After a tight 16-15 first quarter, Carson went on an 11-0 run thanks to guards DJ Love and Marquez McCain to lead 27-15.
The Bulls cut it to seven twice but Cougar sharpshooter Jacob Raper nailed a three pointer inside the final minute to give his team a 36-26 lead.
The margin reached 43-31 on a driving lay-up by Laws with 5:15 left in the third. That was when Hickory Ridge went on their own tear to completely wipe out the lead. In the fourth quarter it came down to who wanted it the most and that turned out to be Howard.
“I did want it in the fourth quarter and my teammates were feeding me,” he said. “I have to give it to my team because they helped me get back into my game in the end.”
NOTES: It was Toga Night for the Carson Crazies cheering section plus they held up several large Big Head cutouts of Coach Perry’s face...”Not something I really wanted to see,” he said with a chuckle.
HICKORY RIDGE (55) — Stowe 15, Hough 11, Stafford 10, Porch 6, Metcalfe 6, Freeman 4, Williams 2, Tibbs 1, Frazier, Komendat.
CARSON (71) — Williams 17, Howard 12, Laws 10, McCain 9, Stout 7, Love 6, Raper 5, Hower 5, Parker.
H. Ridge 15 11 24 5 — 55
Carson 16 20 13 22 — 71