CONCORD — Call it survive and advance, or refuse to lose, or maybe even an upset based on seeding.
But you have to call it a historic win for Brooke Misenheimer’s Carson Cougars as they edged J.M. Robinson, 59-57, Wednesday night in the second round of the 3A girls Midwest sectional.
Senior guard Kelly Dulkoski provided the firepower for the Cougars (21-7), scoring 30 points for the game and 11 of her team’s final 12 points in crunch time. Her two free throws with 12.7 seconds left broke a 57-all tie that propeled Carson into a third round game for the first time in the school’s six year history.
“We just wanted to win and to do whatever it takes,” Dulkoski said. “I am looking forward to playing again on Friday and looking forward to getting off to a better start”
The Cougars won despite a miserable start as the third seeded Bulldogs (23-6) had their trap defense working, their transition game working and their inside game of 6-2 Kelsi Mahoney and 6-2 Rachel Cook dominating. Robinson overpowered Carson at the end of the first period with a 10-0 run to lead 17-6. The Cougars went over five minutes without a field goal and trailed 23-13 with five minutes left before the half.
“We just played like we didn’t care to be here,” Cougar Misenheimer said of the first half disaster. “We didn’t look like we really cared to win.”
Carson did show a little life behind Allison Blackwell and Katherine Barringer midway in the second period as they cut the lead to 27-25. But the Bulldogs scored eight points in the final minute to lead 35-25 at intermission.
Carson went to a zone defense in the second half to slow the Bulldogs down but still found themselves down 10 as the final quarter opened. Then the tide slowly started to turn as Carson started pressing and producing turnovers.
A jumper by Blackwell then two baskets by Alex Allen cut the deficit to four. Barringer then battled for a rebound and drew a foul. She hit both free throws to make it 46-44.
Robinson did surge back ahead by five on Fulford’s snowbird layup with 3:50 left but Blackwell (16 points) set the stage for Dulkoski’s big scoring spree by producing a key play of her own. She drove right down the lane between Mahoney and Cook for a layup and one. Her free throw made it 51-49 then Dulkoski’s layup tied the score at 51. Her two foul shots with 2:45 left put Carson ahead 53-51, their first lead since it was 2-0.
“We finally found some life in the fourth quarter,” Misenheimer said. “I told them it is the sign of a good team when you find a way to win despite not playing your best.”
Carson led by as many as four in the final two minutes but Robinson tied the game at 57-57 with 16 seconds left on a steal and lay-up by Amaya Scott. Dulkoski was then fouled as she split a double team in the backcourt and nailed both free throws to provide the winning margin. The Bulldogs had two inside shots in the final seconds to tie but missed both.
“We rushed some things and kind of panicked,” Bulldog coach Lin Smithson noted. “To be honest with you, I love this team and I am absolutely heartbroken the season is over. They worked so hard and came so far.”
Carson, the 11 seed in the Midwest, now travels to face second seed Charlotte Harding Friday night. The winner goes to the West Regional.
CARSON (59) — Dulkoski 30, Blackwell 16, Barringer 5, Allen 5, Van Voorhis 2, Cole 1.
ROBINSON (57) — Mahoney 18, Cook 10, Fulford 10, Zeiler 8, Scott 7, Vaughters 2, Bickford 2.
Carson 6 19 11 23 — 59
Robinson 17 18 9 13 — 57