Prep Basketball Preview: Carson girls

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 24, 2008

By Mike London
CHINA GROVE ó A decade ago, East Rowan’s girls fielded one of the great basketball teams in county history and went 26-4.
Faster, taller, stronger, springier teams have come along since then, won even more and put up more banners, but fans still remember the 1998-99 Mustangs.
Partly because they won the SPC when the league was loaded. Partly because they beat a really good West Rowan team four times, including twice in championship games.
But mostly because the five starters fit together like fingers sliding into a glove.
Two scored a ton. Two scored when necessary. Brooke Misenheimer was the perfect point guard who took care of the ball and got it where it needed to go.
If Misenheimer had a dollar for every time coach Gina Talbert jumped up and started to tell her what play to run and then realized Misenheimer was already running it, Misenheimer would be retired instead of working at Carson as a guidance counselor and basketball coach.
Misenheimer, tougher on the inside than she looks on the outside, hasn’t changed a lot in 10 years.
She’s handled the growing pains well. No one would have blamed her if she’d hauled boxes of Kleenex to the bench because there have been some frustrating nights.
Carson has never scored more than 47 points in a game. N.C. State’s Shayla Fields once put up 47 by herself when she played for Salisbury.
In 2006-07, Carson broke an 18-game losing streak by beating Mooresville for what remains its only NPC win, and that was mostly due to seniors Mack White, Charlena Lynn and Natasha Howell.
Last season, without that trio, things got even tougher. The Cougars beat North Rowan early, but they lost their last 20 games.
On an average night in 2006-07, Carson lost 58-32. Last season, it was 59-28.
Misenheimer has stayed positive. Her glass is half-full, and you’d think the Cougars were 45-2 instead of 2-45.
“I really think this summer was a turning point for a lot of my kids as far as enjoying the game,” she said. “They were excited about playing and about running the summer league. They ran the clock. They were in charge. They had a lot of enthusiasm.”
The Cougars who have stayed the course since the early days ó Taylor Whitley, Jazzmin Brown, Breckin Settlemyer, Sarah Marshall and Jennifer Hough ó have earned respect. Yeah, 45 losses, but, like Rocky, they’re answering the bell again.
“We focus on fundamentals every day,” Misenheimer said. “If we get better individually, the team gets better. If we get better as a team, the wins will come.”
Carson should have its best team this season. Girls who took their lumps as varsity freshmen aren’t overmatched anymore. They’ve grown up. They’re more mature and more skilled.
Good athletes have been added, and there are a lot of winnable games early. Early success is as critical to Carson as any team in the county.
“The battle is developing the experience of winning,” Misenheimer said. “It’s hard to win if you haven’t had that success.”
Some Cougars have had a little taste. Some played on a softball team that made the playoffs last spring. Others played on a volleyball team that came close this fall.
To win in basketball, the Cougars need more size ó they’re short except for Settlemyer ó and Misenheimer needs to locate a point guard who can do some of the things she did at East.
Taking care of the ball is the top priority for the Cougars, and Misenheimer’s not sitting around hoping Santa leaves a pure point guard under the tree.
She’s working with Brown and Hough, both juniors. They are very good athletes and are improving as far as the decision-making and leadership aspects of the job.
“Hough gets after it, she has stamina, she’s an emotional leader and she’s a tough defender,” Misenheimer said. “She’s just got to do it consistently.”
Hough averaged 4.3 points a game last season and made her share of H.O.R.S.E. shots.
Brown, a sweet shooter who led the Cougars with 6.6 points per game, has made major strides in the offseason.
“She’s dedicated herself to basketball,” Misenheimer said. “She played AAU, came to all the summer workouts. She’s an offensive threat, and she’s getting more confidence as a leader.”
The second emphasis is improved defense. New assistant coach Doug Faison, who handled defensive Xs and Os for great Salisbury teams, will help in that area.
Whitley, a junior, has been slowed by an ankle injury, but she’s a good mid-range shooter (5.0 points per game last season) and an intelligent player.
Settlemyer, a junior, has improved more than any Cougar in the last two years, and assistant Ebony Pharr, a two-time county player of the year, has to be part of that.
Settlemyer should give Carson an inside presence, and the Cougars are starving for points in the paint.
“Like Jazzmin and Taylor, Breckin’s one of the girls who has put in extra work and taken ownership of the team,” Misenheimer said. “There’s a world of difference in her now and her freshman year. She’s grown into her body. She isn’t afraid to play like she’s tall, and she has some post moves.”
Marshall, another junior, would cheerfully box out a grizzly bear. She’s only 5-foot-4, but she was Carson’s leading rebounder last season.
“Sarah will take a charge and do all the dirty work that doesn’t get noticed,” Misenheimer said.
Marissa Sellers, a sophomore who moved up to the varsity late last season, is an athlete who adds energy and quickness. That description also fits sophomore guard Demya Heggins.
“Defensively, they can really harass people,” Misenheimer said.
Misenheimer is thrilled with the addition of sisters Kaylene and Meagan Livengood, whose family moved from Washington state.
Kaylene, a junior, is 5-8 and could man the 4-spot.
“Nice moves, nice shot and fitting in,” Misenheimer said.
Maegan, 5-5, is a good shooter, the team’s best helpside defender and a communicator whether she’s on the bench or on the floor.
Freshman Chloe Monroe, 5-6, could add scoring punch.
“She can really take the ball to the basket,” Misenheimer said. “Her best asset is her ability to score, and she doesn’t get rattled.”
Junior guard Heather Ciscel, as well as junior post players Aliyah Khan and Megan Meismer, provide depth.
“I think we’re due for success.” Misenheimer said. “The key will be focusing on improving each day.”