CHINA GROVE — Defense this tough is usually accompanied by shoulder pads and helmets.
Carson’s girls engaged in a fierce fight with visiting North Iredell on Tuesday and won 47-43 in a struggle between two teams that entered the night unbeaten in the NPC.
There was no transition, just a man-to-man wrestling match on every halfcourt possession.
“It was a defensive battle,” said Carson coach Brooke Misenheimer, who looked as drained as her players. “They were all over us, all over Kelly (Dulkoski), but we also did a great defensive job. Both teams had to fight and claw and scratch for everything single thing they got.”
Dulkoski usually wore two North Iredell defenders and sometimes more. She still scored 17 points, and that was a ton in a game in which every single bucket was cause for high-fives in the bleachers.
“It’s just tough to guard No. 4 (Dulkoski) for 32 minutes because she’s a heck of a player,” North Iredell coach Brad Gabriel said. “Carson played great defense and things broke their way at the end.”
Allison Blackwell scored 13 for the Cougars. Kate Cole hit two 3s. Alex Allen made two ice-water free throws late, and Katherine Barringer and Paris Parks were heroes on the defensive end.
“We knew it was going to take our best defensive effort of the season to win — and we did that,” Dulkoski said. “It’s a great win for us.”
Brooke Redmond and Brittani Carter, two girls who have tussled with Carson in volleyball, scored 11 each to lead the Raiders (8-5, 4-1).
It was 12-12 after a quarter, but the Cougars (14-3, 5-0) used a spree of mid-range jump shots by Blackwell to push to a 29-24 halftime lead.
Redmond got in early foul trouble but came out dominating in the third quarter — scoring inside, making great passes, blocking shots. When Lacy Fox scored inside late in the quarter, North Iredell led 37-35.
But Dulkoski, with her drive cut off, spotted Cole deep in the left corner, and Cole made the cords dance for a 38-37 Carson advantage heading to the final eight minutes. In that last, grinding quarter it was hard to get a shot off, much less make one.
“We had a good gameplan,” Gabriel said. “But Carson had a good gameplan too — take Redmond away.”
Carson shut out Redmond and quick guard Mariah Johnson in the final quarter, and Parks had some high-energy defensive stands against the hard-driving Cartner.
“Kat (Barringer) did a great job against Redmond and we backed off some other girls and were able to take the lobs to her away,” Allen said. “We played really well on defense.”
A Cartner 3-pointer made it 40-40, but Dulkoski fought her way free and scored the game’s next two field goals.
Cartner’s awesome baseline floater with 1:35 remaining cut the Cougars’ thin edge to 44-43, but North Iredell wouldn’t score again.
With Carson clinging to a one-point lead, Allen boarded a NI miss with 39 seconds left and sank both ends of a huge one-and-one for a 46-43 lead.
Blackwell rebounded a missed NI 3-pointer with 8.7 seconds left and made one free throw to seal victory.
“We won this one with defensive stops,” Misenheimer said. “Defense is the backbone of this team.”
NORTH IREDELL (43) — Cartner 11, B. Redmond 11, Fox 9, Lunsford 8, Johnson 4, Moore.
CARSON (47) — Dulkoski 17, Blackwell 13, Barringer 7, Cole 6, Allen 4, Parks, Gray, VanVoorhis.
N. Iredell 12 12 13 6 — 43
Carson 12 17 9 9 — 47