Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 5, 2013

STATESVILLE — Carson’s boys may not win the NPC championship this season, but it could have a say in who does.
Especially if the Cougars play like they did Friday night at Statesville, where the two-time defending conference champs were pushed to the edge in an 81-75 overtime victory.
“This got nerve-wracking,” Statesville coach Sonny Schofield said after the league-leading Greyhounds (8-2, 3-0) pulled out a molar-grinding win. “They came after us tonight. I think they’re a dangerous team.”
Carson (7-7, 1-1) rallied from an 11-point, third-quarter deficit and surged ahead in the final period before dropping its second OT decision.
“It’s the little things that we should have done, things that could have won the game for us,” junior guard Tre Williams said after scoring a career-high 37 points. “We’ve just got to learn how to finish. If we can play a full 32 minutes — not 28, not 31 — we could be an elite team.”
The Cougars discovered how close they are to challenging for a title midway through the third quarter, when they used a 9-1 scoring spree to draw within 50-47. A key basket was D.J. Love’s 3-pointer from the left corner and Myquan Stout’s power drive and layup.
“We gave ourselves an opportunity,” said Brian Perry, Carson’s seventh-year coach. “Even several chances to win the game. That fourth quarter had to be the best defense we’ve played in a long time.”
Williams converted both ends of a one-and-one late in the third quarter to keep Carson within striking distance as the final period began.
“In the last half, we played as though it was our last quarter of the season,” said junior post-man Colton Laws. “We gave it everything we had.”
Laws ignited the torch when he took a lob pass from Williams and hit a layup just seconds into the fourth quarter. Then with 6:40 remaining he gave Carson its first lead when his putback put the Cougars ahed 57-56. A minute late Williams grabbed a loose ball and hit a shot from the right baseline, providing a three-point lead.
“We were getting the buckets we needed at the right time,” Laws said after netting 14 points. “Problem was we weren’t getting stops.”
Actually, they were. With all-everything senior Jaquan Warren chained to the bench with four personals, Statesville went more than seven minutes without a field goal. He returned with 2:16 on the clock and the Hounds pressing to catch up.
“My bench is a little inexperienced,” Scofield said. “And I had three of them in foul trouble.”
Trailing by a point, Carson had a chance to win the game in regulation when Jacob Raper went to the foul line for two free throws with 4.1 seconds to go. He missed the first and sank the second to tie the score 65-65.
Carson never led in overtime and fell behind 70-65 when Warren (19 points) scored on a fastbreak, 360-slam that turned the Statesville cheering section into a human trampoline. “He was trying to make up for some earlier mistakes he’d made,” Scofield said. “That’s how he does it. It was an ill-advised play, but it’s a good thing he made it.”
Despite the loss, Perry felt the Cougars demonstrated — for one night, anyway — just how good they can be. “We came here to win the game,” he said. “And nearly pulled it out.”

CARSON (75) — Williams 37, Laws 14, Love 10, Stout 4, Howard 4, Homer 3, McCain 2, Raper 1, Purcell.
STATESVILLE (81) — Warren 19, Gaither 16, Borders 16, Willis 10, Daniels 8, Murdock 5, Thompson 3, Turner 2, Williams 2.

Carson 11 18 24 12 10 — 75
Statesville 15 23 18 9 16 — 81