Carson boys still searching
By Mike London
STATESVILLE — West Iredell’s boys are always difficult to score against, so it’s no surprise Carson sophomore Brandon Ferguson’s county-leading average took a hit on Tuesday night.
Ferguson, who dropped from 23.0 to 20.9 points per game, was limited to eight by the athletic Warriors, who won 54-39 in the NPC opener for both teams and Carson’s first-ever league game.
Both teams pulled teeth offensively most of the night, but the Warriors (6-2, 1-0) put together a 23-point fourth quarter to break open a close game.
West Iredell’s Michael Watkins was the star, scoring 12 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter and doing most of the sweaty defensive work against Ferguson, a sweet shooter with enough spring and quickness to create some shots.
“We had a chance to watch Ferguson against East Rowan and saw he can shoot it as well as anybody,” West Iredell coach Bryan Cantrell said. “Watkins is our best defender, so he had Ferguson. I also thought we did a real good job of hustling and communicating on the screens they were trying to set for him.”
Clint Fontenot (nine points, five rebounds, three blocks), Dustin Craft (eight points, six rebounds) and freshman Darius Moose (six rebounds, three steals) had productive nights for the Cougars (0-7, 0-1).
“When a guy’s been putting up 25s like Brandon, you can expect teams to try to stop him,” said Fontenot, Carson’s only senior. “That means other guys have to step up and score.”
Carson missed six of its seven first-half free-throw attempts and generally drove coach Brian Perry crazy. The Cougars couldn’t get Ferguson untracked and headed to the locker room after a dismal second quarter trailing 20-12.
When Carson slipped behind 27-12 early in the third quarter, a blowout seemed certain, but Craft and Fontenot did pretty fair impressions of Kobe and LeBron for a four-minute stretch in which the Cougars scored 10 unanswered points.
Fontenot scored on an inbounds play. Craft stole the ball and drove for a layup, then scored in the lane.
Then Fontenot found Moose inside to make it 29-23. When Craft, who jumps extraordinarily well for an undersized post player wearing a knee brace, tossed in another hanging shot in the paint, Carson trailed 29-25, and the small contingent of Cougar fans who made the long trip were getting excited.
“They had a run early in the third quarter and jumped on us,” Perry said. “We’ve had that happen a lot — teams coming out really hard at us the third quarter. This time we responded better than we have in the past. That was encouraging.”
“In the third quarter,” Fontenot added, “we showed the potential of what this team can do.”
But Carson’s chance to record the first win in school history disappeared when Craft got an offensive foul — his fifth — in the opening minute of the fourth quarter.
“That hurt us,” Perry said. “And we had Alex Freeze at the desk to go in for Craft when he fouled out.”
West Iredell had pulled the ball out and forced Carson to abandon its zone late in the third quarter. In the fourth, the Warriors started beating the Cougars’ man-to-man defense and earning foul shots.
West made 14 free throws in the fourth quarter, and the lead went back to double digits.
Quan Rucker scored five of his 16 points on fourth-quarter free throws. Watson also hit five free throws down the stretch.
“We’re just gonna keep plugging away,” Perry said. “One of these nights, we’re gonna break through.”
carson (39) — Fontenot 9, Craft 8, Ferguson 8, Ferrare 6, Moose 5, Freeze 2, Adams 1, Yates, Kosinski, Hutchinson.
West iredell (54) — Rucker 16, Watkins 15, Thompson 10, Clark 6, Clyburn 4, Stuckey 3, McLain, Gray, Chastain, Jackson, Lazenby.
Carson 5 7 13 14 — 39
W. Iredell 7 13 11 23 — 54
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