Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 23, 2013

CHINA GROVE — The list of believers in Carson’s boys continues to grow.
After Carson’s 61-46 NPC win against North Iredell on Tuesday that was sparked by D.J. Love, you can add NI coach Brian Cantrell to that list.
“They’ve got depth, they’ve got shooters, and they’ve got some size,” Cantrell said. “That’s a solid team, and they’ve established themselves as one of the top two teams in our league.”
The other top team is Statesville, which is unbeaten in the NPC and ranked second in 3A. Carson’s only league setback was an overtime affair at Statesville.
Carson stood 2-5 on Dec. 11 after a home loss and was looking disjointed. No one saw the Cougars establishing anything at that point except a coaching staff filled with prematurely gray hair.
It’s been different lately. Carson (10-7, 4-1) now has won eight out of 10 for the second-best 10-game stretch in program history.
Carson got 17 points from Tre Williams and 14 each from Colton Laws and Love, but it actually looked pretty ordinary for 24 of Tuesday’s 32 minutes.
But there also were four minutes in the second quarter and four minutes at the start of the second half in which the Cougars looked capable of putting hardware in the trophy case.
Carson ran off 13 unanswered points in that first big run to wipe out a deficit and opened the second half with an 11-0 burst that just about settled things.
“We played in spurts, but those were wonderful spurts where we looked really good,” Carson coach Brian Perry said.
Perry anticipated a sluggish start after the exams-break and a snowy Friday — and he got it.
Carson missed 10 pointblank shots in the first quarter and dug a 14-8 hole.
But Carson scored the first 13 of the second quarter to transform six points down to seven points up in a hurry. Love made three shots in that run, and as much as anyone, the senior has keyed the Cougars’ turnaround.
“I don’t know if it’s the senior coming out in him — or what,” Perry said. “But the light bulb has definitely come on for D.J. He’s giving us all kinds of energy.”
Love, who had zero points in four games this season, now has scored in double digits four outings in a row.
Still, North Iredell (6-9, 2-3) didn’t exactly get on the bus after that first Carson push.
“Carson’s good defensively and they really came after us in the second quarter,” Cantrell said. “They gave us a punch, but we were still only down five at halftime, and on the road, I felt pretty good about where we were. But the start of the second half was the key time in the game.”
Indeed it was. Love soared to score the first three buckets of the second half, and the Cougars were in control.
Chase Colvin scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half to lead North Iredell, which travels to West Rowan tonight.

NORTH IREDELL (46) — Colvin 15, Ruppe 9, Nolen 5, Chambers 4, Hartness 4, Mullins 3, Queen 2, Grinton 2, Pruitt 2, Holland, Weibley.
CARSON (61) — Williams 17, Laws 14, Love 14, Raper 9, Hower 5, Howard 2, Stout, Purcell.

N. Iredell 14 10 11 11 — 46
Carson 8 21 15 17 — 61