Cougars claw by West
OLIN — Carson’s boys won and believe they made a statement.
West Rowan lost and believes it made one too.
Carson beat the Falcons 74-70 in an NPC semifinal that burned so hot and spilled so much emotion that tempers flared in the second quarter with shoves, chatter and technicals from people not normally involved with shoves, chatter and technicals.
There’s little difference between the teams. Carson, which will play Statesville in tonight’s 7:30 p.m. title game, won 63-60 in China Grove on late heroics by Tre Williams. West won 65-63 in Mount Ulla on late heroics by Chris Hassard. Carson won Thursday’s rubber game in neutral Olin and claimed the NPC’s No. 2 seed for the 3A state playoffs, but the Cougars won only because Jacob Raper and Myquon Stout were unreal.
“This was an incredibly important game for our kids and not just because that No. 2 seed was at stake,” Carson coach Brian Perry said. “I don’t think our guys have gotten enough credit, even though we’ve got a great county record. I realize North Rowan has a good team, but our guys have earned the right to claim that they’re right up there with anyone in the county.”
For the record, Carson (17-9) is 11-1 in county games and 0-0 against North Rowan. Carson started out 2-5. In its last 19, it has won 15 times, lost to 4A Davie, lost twice in overtime to fourth-ranked Statesville and lost at the horn to West.
West (12-13) has made its own remarkable turnaround after a 1-8 start, so it was two confident teams going at it.
“This was a good day for West basketball, and I hope no one spills their morning coffee when he reads that,” West coach Mike Gurley said. “This was a building season, and my guy are way ahead of schedule. We put ourselves in position to play in a big-time game tonight against a very good team, and we had a chance to win it.”
The 3-pointer is huge for undersized West, and Celexus Long (25 points), Seth Martin (16 points) and Devin Parks (12 points) rained 10 bombs.
“But foul trouble hurt us,” Parks said. “That and Carson shot free throws a lot better.”
Carson got five 3s and a career-best 21 points from Raper, 17 points from Colton Laws, and 13 points, 11 rebounds, and four charges taken from Stout.
For three quarters, it was an even struggle — 50-50.
Carson got control early in the fourth when West missed four free throws and Stout kept taking charges. Suddenly, Carson was up 10 with 3:30 left.
“I can only jump so high, but I’ll throw my body out there and take a charge,” Stout said. “We wanted this. We’ve thought about it since West beat us.”
It wasn’t over. Long shot West back into it. When Long hit a 3-ball with 11 seconds left, Carson’s lead was just 72-70.
But the Cougars were able to inbound the ball against pressure, and West fouled Raper. His clutch free throws with 5.2 seconds left sealed victory.
“This game meant everything to us,” Raper said.CARSON (74) —Raper 21, Laws 17, Stout 13, Williams 8, McCain 8, Love 4, Hower 3, Howard.
WEST ROWAN (70) — Long 25, Martin 16, Parks 12, Tucker 10, Hassard 5, Reddick 2, Gabriel, Phillips, Rayner .Carson 16 17 17 24 — 74W. Rowan 14 24 12 20 — 70