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Carson falls to Robinson in OT

CHINA GROVE — It was nearly the wildest comeback in Carson boys basketball history.

Instead, Monday’s game was filed away in the we-almost-did-it column.

Robinson beat Carson 86-77 in overtime, but that final verdict was rendered only after Carson wiped out a 23-point deficit in the final six minutes of regulation.

“I didn’t think we were ever gonna flip the switch,” Carson coach Brian Perry said. “We finally flipped it and played with some intensity. I just wish we could’ve done it earlier. We’ve got find energy earlier and we’ve got to be mentally prepared to play earlier in games.”

Marquez McCain scored 17 for the Cougars, with 14 coming in the fourth quarter and overtime. Rameiq Howard and Colton Laws added 14 points apiece. Jacob Raper scored 11, all during Carson’s furious rally.

Sophomore Connor Boothe led the Bulldogs with 19 points and owned the overtime session. Jordan McKenzie, the freshman son of former Northwest Cabarrus and East Rowan coach Greg McKenzie, scored 18. William Scott also had 18, and Keshawn Farris scored 15.

It was a mostly even, mostly forgettable first half. The Bulldogs (1-1), who had dropped their opener at home to South Rowan, managed a 36-32 lead at the break.

When Myquon Stout muscled in a Carson bucket early in the third quarter, Robinson led 36-34, but then Carson suffered through an awful stretch. It was “Beach Night” for Carson’s student section, byt suddenly the visitors were kicking sand in Carson’s face.

“Carson was missing layups and missing free throws,” Robinson coach Joe Pike said. “Coach Perry does a great job and I believe they were getting the shots they wanted, but they just weren’t making them.”

A 3-pointer by Scott gave the Bulldogs a 45-34 lead three minutes into the second half. Three minutes later, when Cameron Butler soared to block a shot and then dished to Farris to finish a fastbreak, Robinson led by 19 at 57-38.

The peak of lopsidedness was 63-40, and when McKenzie splashed a 3-pointer with six minutes left, Carson (1-3) was down 66-44 and fading fast.

Carson had been embarrassed 79-47 by a much more experienced Robinson team a year earlier, and this one appeared headed down that same road.

But McCain made a steal and bucket to stop the bleeding. Then Tre Williams made a spin for a bucket, and Malachi Parker got a shot to fall.

Pike obviously had wanted to clear his bench, but when he looked up the lead had shrunk from 23 to 14, and Carson had momentum.

“We really needed to win this ballgame,” Howard said. “We started fighting harder, and then Raper started making 3s.”

Raper would nail three of them in a hurry — bang, bang, bang. Two Robinson technicals — one for a player untucking his shirt while he was still on the floor after fouling out — helped fuel the frenzy, and the crowd, what was left of it, was going bananas.

Two free throws by McCain with 19 seconds left trimmed Robinson’s lead to 72-71. Scott hit a free throw for a two-point Robinson lead, and Carson came down the floor for its final possession of regulation.

Williams got into the lane. Boothe blocked his shot. Howard somehow got his hands on the loose ball and calmly made the bucket that forced overtime.

“I did everything I could to get my hands on that ball,” Howard said. “Then I pump-faked because the pump-fake had worked all night. It worked out. The ball went in.”

Carson won that furious fourth quarter 33-14, but it didn’t have anything left.

Boothe’s overtime free throw put Robinson ahead to stay, and his reverse layup made it a three-point lead. When Laws lost the ball out front — he appeared to get hit in the face on that sequence — Boothe scored again. McKenzie swished four straight free throws, and it was over.

“My team being as young and inexperienced as it is, is both a good and bad thing,” Pike said. “We got popped in the mouth and jabbed in the stomach and we lost a 23-point lead to a quality team on the road. But I think we’re so inexperienced that it even didn’t bother us.”

For Carson, what was nearly a remarkable feel-good story became just another tough loss.

“I really thought we were going to pull it off,” Raper said. “We played with a lot of intensity in that fourth quarter.”

ROBINSON (86) — Boothe 19, McKenzie 18, Scott 18, Farris 15, Butler 7, Parks 6, Tucker 3, Bolen, Tolone.

CARSON (77) — McCain 17, Laws 14, Howard 14, Raper 11, Williams 8, Stout 5, Love 4, Parker 4, Hower.

Robinson 17 19 23 14 13 — 86

Carson 17 15 8 33 4 — 77

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