Carson boys 60, North Iredell 53
By Mike London
OLIN ó Carson’s bus didn’t have a flat tire on the long trip to North Iredell, but anything else that could have gone wrong did go wrong on Tuesday night.
Carson’s boys somehow won their NPC matchup with the winless Raiders 60-53, but they were fortunate to escape the spacious, mostly empty, red gym in Olin.
“We underestimated them, thought it would be a breeze,” Carson junior Cody Clanton said. “North Iredell came to play, and we didn’t.”
The Cougars (8-1, 2-0) did prove one thing. For the first time in school history, they’re good enough to win even on nights when they don’t bring their best stuff.
North Iredell coach Tony Davenport called Carson the NPC favorite, but it appeared to be running on empty even during warmups.
Star Darius Moose didn’t shoot the first seven minutes. Shooter Nick Houston couldn’t buy one. Clanton found a seat on the bench next to coach Brian Perry after two quick offensive fouls.
Even Energizer Bunnies Brandon Ferrare, Devon Heggins and Derrick Sewell were moving in mud.
Davenport’s team isn’t overloaded with eye-popping talent, but it ran its old-school, pick-and-roll stuff to perfection. A guy named Colt Pierce decided he owned the boards. A kid named Will Mitchell turned into J.J. Redick.
Perry looked up, and his favored team was down 19-11. He resisted the temptation to smash a clipboard. He just kept clapping his hands, pleading for defensive stops and hoping his guys would wake up in time.
“Long trip and we had a hard time getting the energy going,” Perry said. “North Iredell was hitting big shots and getting more second shots than I would’ve liked.”
Second quarter, Moose got going. He always gets going. He had nine points in the quarter and his stickback in the final seconds of the half gave the Cougars a 35-34 lead.
North Iredell (0-6, 0-1) still wasn’t done. The Raiders shot 7-for-12 in the third quarter, splashed two more 3s and reclaimed a 50-46 lead heading to the fourth.
“It was getting down to the wire,” Clanton said. “That’s when we buckled down on defense.”
Carson’s fourth-quarter defense won it. Pierce got one bucket on a pick-and-roll, but that was North Iredell’s only field goal of the quarter.
The Raiders shot 1-for-6, turned it over five times and missed three of their four free throws. Carson won the quarter 14-3.
The period started with a North Iredell turnover, and Clanton calmly drilled a 3 ó his third of the night ó to get Carson within 50-49. After another Carson stop, Moose spotted Clanton slicing down the lane, and Clanton converted a huge three-point play for a 52-50 lead.
“That’s where we got a spark and made a good run,” Clanton said.
Carson’s next four buckets came on layups ó Moose coast-to-coast; Zach Wagner on a pass from Houston; Houston on a pass from Moose; and finally, Heggins slipping away from his man with 40 seconds left to make it 60-52.
“Bottom line, we picked it up in the fourth,” Perry said. “Big stops. Stops we needed.”
Like Perry, Davenport played at Catawba, and he probably should have been awarded NPC Coach of the Year honors on the spot if he’d pulled this upset off.
Davenport had his team in position. It just couldn’t execute down the stretch ó or make critical foul shots.
“I think in the fourth quarter you could tell who the veteran team was,” he said. “Carson’s experienced guys took over the fourth and did what they had to do. All night, we’d gotten into the lane with the pick-and-roll, but they shut it down at the end. Our offense went stagnant.”
Moose finished with 21 points, eight rebounds and one sigh of relief.
carson (60) ó Moose 21, Clanton 12, Heggins 7, Sewell 7, Ferrare 7, Wagner 4, Houston 2.
North iredell (53) ó Mitchell 20, Pierce 12, Haynes 8, McNeely 6, Smith 5, Jordan 2, Holland.
Carson 16 19 11 14 ó 60
North Iredell 19 15 16 3 ó 53