CHINA GROVE — What started as a good old fashion barnburner evolved into a comfortable but intense win for Carson Thursday night as they pulled away from rival Salisbury 61-47.
Despite the final score, Carson (9-1) literally had to rally several times in the game as the Hornets defense and star forward Brielle Blaire kept the pressure on.
In the end however, the Cougars benefitted from 23 points each by Kelly Dulkoski and Allison Blackwell as they nearly outscored Salisbury (4-4) by themselves.
“It was totally a game of spurts, “Cougar Coach Brooke Misenheimer stated. “And I think that last spurt at the beginning of the fourth quarter allowed us to get the lead and hold on to it.”
The final spurt Misenheimer cited came at the opening of the final period as Salisbury led 40-39. Dulkoski bombed a long three then Blackwell scored three quick baskets inside to spark a 10-2 run and a 49-42 lead.
Blaire scored two straight for the Hornets to cut the lead to three but accurate foul shooting by Kate Cole, Dulkoski and Blackwell enabled Carson to close it out by the final 14 point margin.
“We just didn’t make good shots. Our shooting was terrible,” said veteran Hornet coach Doug Faison, noting his team hit just 5 of 18 field goals in the second half. “Foul problems hurt us too. We couldn’t play the good aggressive defense like we wanted to.”
Good aggressive defense was really the nature of the game in the early stages as the two county rivals traded baskets and the lead. The interesting battle down low saw Blaire and Dulkoski, two 1000 point career scorers, go head to head on offense and defense.
One negative of the faceoff for Salisbury anyway was quick foul problems for Blaire who had three at the half that limited her playing time and defensive intensity. Despite that she still ended up with 22 points and 11 rebounds
Dulkoski smiled when asked if she enjoyed the straight up battle with Blaire. “That was our focus for the game, “ she said. “We knew we were going to have to stop Brielle plus good rebounding and boxing out. “
Salisbury had the upper hand for most of the first half as Blaire, her sister Ashley and guard Daterria Connor had the Hornets on top by as many as seven in the first period. The Cougars rallied back for the first time as Salisbury went scoreless for a five minutes period and found themselves trailing 21-18 midway in the second period. A long three by Dulkoski and a lay-up by Katherine Barringer sparked the rally. The Hornets battled back to regain the lead on a steal and basket by Nyasia Harris but by halftime the two teams were all knotted up at 25-25.
The next spurt for Carson came out of the gate in the third period as they surged ahead 35-27 behind Dulkoski and Blackwell’s fastbreak. Salisbury responded with eight straight points by Blaire and Conner to reclaim the lead at 40-37.
The tide began to turn for Carson as Blaire and forward Bryanna Caldwell each got their fourth foul in the final minute of the third that hampered their inside defense.
Dulkoski and Blackwell had some foul trouble of their own but had enough firepower in the decisive fourth quarter to secure the win. It was the second time this season Carson had beaten Salisbury with a big fourth period burst. Last time the Cougars snapped Salisbury’s 49 game county winning streak and enjoyed their first ever win over the Hornets. This time, the win was just as satisfying and gives Carson some momentum heading into next week’s Moir Tournament.
“This was not the prettiest effort I have ever seen,” Misenheimer said. “But we gutted it out and got the win.”
SALISBURY (47) — B. Blaire 22, Connor 9, Usry 6, Harris 5, A. Blaire 2, Harmon 2, Caldwell 1.
CARSON (61) — Dulkoski 23, Blackwell 23, Cole 9, Allen 3, Barringer 2, Gray 1,
Salisbury 17 8 15 7 — 47
Carson 14 11 14 22 — 61