Prep Basketball: North Iredell girls 56, Carson 39: Cougars must share NPC title

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 8, 2012

By Mike London
CHINA GROVE — Carson’s girls played five inspired minutes on Wednesday, but North Iredell played 32.
A much anticipated showdown turned into a nightmare for the Cougars, who were blasted 56-39 by the visitors.
Crushed in every statistical category, the only positive for third-ranked Carson (21-2, 11-1) is that it still shares the NPC regular season title with deserves-to-be-ranked North Iredell (17-5, 11-1).
Carson’s 52-44 win at North Iredell on Jan. 13 provided serious motivation for the Raiders, who also benefited from the return of standout Bri Johnson, who missed the first matchup.
“From the opening tip, North Iredell had a point to prove tonight,” Carson coach Brooke Misenheimer said. “They just came in here and outplayed us.”
Carson’s offense is usually a smooth machine that produces single-digit turnovers.
The Cougars had 17 in the first half and 25 for the game.
“Their defense was just stifling,” Misenheimer said.
Only Allison Blackwell (13 points) and Alex Allen (eight) played close to their normal games for the Cougars.
North Iredell pest Stacey Lunsford made six steals, and both Johnson sisters, Bri and Mariah, created major havoc.
North Iredell had studied film of Carson intently, and it disrupted the Cougars by double-teaming point guard Kelly Dulkoski whenever she tried to use a ball screen.
Down 12-4 early, Carson briefly scrapped back to 12-9, but the hole was enormous — 33-16 — by halftime.
“Defense definitely was the key,” NI coach Tami Ramsey said. “We did a really good job of executing our gameplan and we got lots of steals.”
Carson tried 2-3 and 1-2-2 zones as well as man-to-man, but it got buried on the boards by a taller team no matter what it did defensively. NI had 16 offensive rebounds.
Down 39-18 in the third quarter, Carson had no choice but to pressure fullcourt. The Cougars found some intensity and made a nice run.
With the crowd roaring, they got all the way back to 41-33, but Bri Johnson made a driving shot as she crashed into Tyesha Phillips for a momentum-changing and-one.
That ignited an 11-0 spree by NI, and it was all over.
“We should have been more patient,” Allen said. “We needed to attack the basket more to draw some fouls and shoot some free throws.”
A coin flip at 7 p.m. Thursday will decide the No. 1 seed for the NPC tournament. The tournament itself — Carson and NI are likely to meet in the final — will determine the No. 1 seed for the 3A playoffs.
N. IREDELL (56) — B. Johnson 15, Cartner 12, Redmond 11, Robbins 10, M. Johnson 5, Lunsford 3, Haneline.
CARSON (39) — Blackwell 13, Dulkoski 9, Allen 8, Monroe 7, Barringer 2, Holman, Phillips, Stirewalt, Cole, Parks.
N. Iredell 12 21 11 12 — 56
Carson 9 7 17 6 — 39