Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 5, 2013

STATESVILLE — It looks like the Carson girls’ mini-crisis is over — but it took a while to unfold Friday night.
The Cougars, still feeling the pinch from last week’s disappointing showing in the Christmas tournament, played an impressive second-half and rolled to a 56-31 NPC victory at Statesville.
“It definitely took us until the third quarter to get anything going offensively or defensively,” coach Brooke Misenheimer said after Carson (11-3, 2-0) snapped a two-game skid. “First quarter, we didn’t play defense, didn’t get stops, didn’t rebound the ball — and we’ve been working on that all week.”
The result was a predictably slow start for Carson, which enjoyed a 10-game winning streak earlier this season. Statesville (1-9, 0-3) held the Cougars to one field goal in the opening five minutes and built a 10-4 lead when Ineya Hairston scored on floater from inside the lane with less than a minute remaining in the first quarter.
“It felt like the Christmas tournament all over again,” senior Allison Blackwell said after pacing all scorers with 17 points. “We weren’t doing what we were supposed to do. It was our defensive approach. That’s what hurt us last week.”
Carson forced 23 turnovers, including six in the first period, but Statesville was able to find seams and penetrate to the basket. That gradually began to change in the second quarter, when Kelly Dulkoski’s 3-pointer from the top of the wheel and Megan Gray’s free throw capped an 8-0 Carson run.
“They had a couple of shooters who were really good,” said SHS coach Greg Stewart. “But in the first half we were passing the ball around, finding the open shooter and forced them play more defense than they really wanted to.”
It was still a struggle for Carson, which clawed its way to an 18-17 halftime edge. In the third quarter the Cougars made the game their own. Misenheimer ordered a defensive adjustment that paid dividends at both ends of the floor.
“We spent the first half trying to pick them up a lot sooner than we needed to,” she said. “So in the third quarter we started picking them up at the three-point line. We wanted to make them play a half-court offense.”
Senior forward Katherine Barringer played a key role. She drew three charges in the second half and sparked a defense that forced 13 second-half turnovers.
“It was us communicating with each other,” she said. “You know, working as a team instead of one person trying to do everything.”
Blackwell and Dulkoski provided the offensive juice. Blackwell’s 3-ball from the right side gave Carson an immediate lift in the third quarter. Moments later she scored on a scoop layup from the left side, got hacked and converted the ensuing free throw to cap a 10-0 flurry that gave the Cougars a 28-17 lead.
“They figured things out,” Stewart said afterward. “They started finding the open man and hitting those open shots. They were using their strengths — shooting and rebounding.”
It was all music to Misenheimer’s ears. “The first four minutes of the third quarter were huge,” she said. “But the biggest thing was stepping up and making stops. That was the difference.”
CARSON (56) — Blackwell 17, Dulkoski 15, Allen 11, Cole 6, Huffman 4, Barringer 2, Gray 1, Parks, Clark, Vanvoorhis.
STATESVILLE (31) — Hairston 11, Gibbs 8, Arnette 5, Parson 3, Elliott 2, Bagley 2.

Carson 6 12 18 20 — 56
Statesville 10 7 8 6 — 31