Published 12:00 am Friday, January 25, 2013

GRANITE QUARRY — Allison Blackwell scored 21 points for Carson on Thursday, but the story in the Cougars’ 53-41 NPC win at East Rowan was the senior’s defense.
Blackwell held East’s strong post player Kelli Fisher scoreless, and that was an accomplishment. Fisher had topped 20 points in two of her previous three games, and the Mustangs (10-7, 2-4) always count on her for double figures.
When Carson routed East 69-33 in December, the 5-foot-10 Blackwell’s defensive assignment was perimeter player Sydney Poole, and she held Poole to two points.
“One of the great things about Allison is she can defend a 6-3 post player or defend a guard,” Carson coach Brooke Misenheimer said. “That’s a very nice luxury to have.”
Carson (15-3, 6-0) stayed in first place in the NPC, a league with three very strong girls teams. East is pretty good, but it’s 0-4 against Carson, West Rowan and North Iredell.
Kelly Dulkoski scored 24 points for Carson, although Poole made her work for all of them and held Dulkoski to two field goals in the second half. Dulkoski shot 9-for-22.
“Poole did everything there was to do to contest her shots,” East coach Danielle Porter said. “But players that can shoot the ball like that don’t come along very often. Duke could’ve used her against Miami.”
Karleigh Wike, a 6-4 junior, carried East’s offense with 26 points to match her season high, and she also pulled down 17 rebounds. It was a different Wike than the one that scored two points and got shoved around by the Cougars in the teams’ first meeting.
“We were a lot more physical this time,” Wike said. “That first game they just killed us, so this was a big improvement.”
East got nine rebounds from Fisher and won the battle on the glass, but Carson, with Dulkoski doing the bulk of the ballhandling, had just eight turnovers to 21 for the Mustangs.
East got a 3-pointer and a free throw from Caroline Fry to take a 12-11 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Cougars came at East hard in the second quarter and pushed to a 12-point advantage when Kate Cole scored off a steal, but the Mustangs didn’t fold.
Poole hit a 3-pointer and Wike had a flurry of inside points, and the Mustangs were down by only 30-24 at halftime.
“I don’t think we were on our best game, but I give credit to East,” Blackwell said. “We had some good runs, but they kept fighting back.”
When Carson opened the second half with buckets by Dulkoski, Cole, Blackwell and Alex Allen for an 8-0 flurry and a 38-24 lead, a knockout seemed just around the corner, but East stayed in it. It wasn’t officially over until Allen hit Blackwell with a long pass and she muscled in a transition layup as she was fouled with a minute to go.
“Single-digit game, fourth quarter, that’s progress,” Porter said. “We’re not yet at the point where we can overcome a nine-point, fourth-quarter deficit and take the game, but I do believe we’ll get there.”
Misenheimer didn’t think her team was aggressive enough, but the bottom line was a road victory against a dangerous team.
“East did a good job tonight of going to their strength, and they are capable of playing with anyone,” Misenheimer said. “We didn’t play our best, but it’s still a big win. Any win is a big win.”

CARSON (53) — Dulkoski 24, Blackwell 21, Cole 4, Allen 4, Barringer, Gray, Parks.
EAST ROWAN (41) — Wike 26, Poole 6, Thomas 5, Fry 4, Lowe, Fisher, Ajayi, Sides, Gullett.

Carson 11 19 14 9 — 53
E. Rowan 12 12 6 11 — 41