Throwback Basketball: Carson All-Stars 72, South Rowan 71: Triumphant return for Carson's Houston, Moose
By David Shaw
CHINA GROVE — It had been nearly two years since Nick Houston and Darius Moose set foot in Carson’s gymnasium.
On Friday night they made a triumphant return, triggering a 72-71 victory over South Rowan in Scooter Sherrill’s third annual Throwback Tournament.
“The place has really changed,” Moose quipped after sinking a game-winning free throw with one second to play. “Since I left, they put up these pads, all these banners and they’ve got new lights.”
The more illuminous setting seemingly benefited Houston, who poured in a game-high 31 points and buried seven 3-pointers.
“Nah, that’s not what helped me,” he insisted afterward. “Practicing was. It’s been a long time but I really felt comfortable playing here.”
The two former Cougars made themselves right at home. Moose, who averaged 12.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per game for a miserable Brevard College team last winter, finished with 21 points. Carlos Dixon, the only professional player in uniform, paced South with 28 points.
“This was only my second time playing basketball since I got back,” said Dixon, who will return for his third season with a team based in Fukuoka, Japan in late-August. “I’m out of shape — game-shape anyway.”
Dixon had 16 first-half points as South took a 38-37 lead. He was his team’s Chairman Wow in the second half, when he drove the left baseline and scored on a prescription-strength jam that tied the score 68-68 with 2:45 to play. It made up for the dunk he botched just moments earlier.
“I’m getting old,” the 30-year old Dixon said. “I can’t get up there like I used to. I’m going to ice down right now.”
South teammate Levar Heggins netted 12 points and converted three clutch layups during a 1:45 span that kept the score tight in the waning moments. A U.S. Army veteran who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Heggins was feeling nostalgic after the molar-grinding finish.
“It kind of brought back some high school memories,” said the 1995 SRHS grad. “Banging down in the post, playing in front of the crowd. Even my sister (Janetta Heggins) was in the crowd, watching me like she used to.”
It was Houston who caused the biggest problem for South. The 6-foot-3 forward had a 20-foot jump shot that was automatic. In a game that featured nine lead changes, his 3-ball from the right side gave Carson its widest margin of the first half — 31-26 with 4:40 on the clock.
“Nick’s been working on that shot all summer,” said Moose. “We’ve been working together every chance we could since we left Carson and we’re still clicking.”
Houston scored his last three points when he drained a rainbow three from the left side that put Carson up 71-68 with 2:15 remaining.
“He was on fire all night,” Dixon said. “He could really knock it down, especially when he got rolling. You couldn’t leave him open.”
The outcome wasn’t sealed until the final minute. Dixon tied the score for the last time when he nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Carson used a timeout with 28 seconds to go and quickly devised a game-winning strategy.
Moose took a pass near the right elbow and penetrated against South player-coach Tony Propst. When Hunter Morrison double-teamed from the left side, Moose elevatated and was hacked on his shooting arm with a second to play.
“Hunter came from the blind side so I turned away from hit, got the mismatch I wanted and took the shot.”
When he calmly sank the first of two free throws, Carson had its victory. “I knew this wasn’t gonna be some playground game,” Heggins said. “It was competitive right until the end.”