CHINA GROVE — Wednesday was about triangles — the triangle-and-two defense that West Rowan’s girls used to stifle Carson and the triangle it caused at the top of the NPC standings.
After West’s forceful 51-41 road win against Carson, the Falcons, Cougars and North Iredell all have 6-1 league records. Carson won at home against North Iredell. North Iredell won at West Rowan.
Seniors Kelly Dulkoski and Allison Blackwell normally combine for 39 of the 55 points a game the Cougars average, a stat sheet that practically begs for a triangle-and-two, but West Rowan coach Todd McNeely was the first to try it.
Alison Sobataka got the man-to-man assignment against Dulkoski, who is her best friend, while Nycieko Dixtook on Blackwell.
“Alison and Nycieko are worn out, but they played their butts off for us,” McNeely said.
West won the game on the defensive end. Carson shot 19 percent in the first half and 26 percent for the game.
Blackwell wasn’t a factor offensively, scoring her only two in the final seconds. Dulkoski made two deep 3s late as Carson tried to rally, but Sobataka basically stopped her. Dulkoski missed 12 of her first 13 shots, as West (17-1) took control.
“You’ll never get any more work than guarding Kelly,” Sobataka said. “But the plan was to make their other people beat us, and they didn’t.”
Carson (15-4) kicked West three times last season, including a 60-28 mauling in the NPC tournament. West’s veterans — Dixon, Sobataka and Shay Steele — were fueled by that history, and the heart attack suffered by assistant coach Mitchell Anderson (he’s recovering) gave them another emotional reason to want to win.
“He’s a great guy, and he was in our hearts,” Sobataka said. “He was still texting us today, reminding us to play as a team.”
Carson played stout defense. Steele (13 points, 10 rebounds) didn’t even have a look at the basket the first six minutes.
“It’s not like our defense was bad at all,” Carson coach Brooke Misenheimer said. “Our defense gave us an opportunity to win, but we couldn’t knock down any shots. That was the story.”
When Kate Cole hit a 3-pointer with 5:21 left in the second quarter, the Cougars led 14-11, but Carson was shut out the rest of the half and the Falcons finished it with an 8-0 run to lead by five.
Carson’s dry spell continued nearly three minutes into the third quarter, and, by then, West’s lead was double digits.
The Cougars tried to rally late and got within 41-37 with 1:17 left on a Paris Parks stickback, but Dixon made two clutch free throws, and then freshman Khaila Hall knocked down six straight.
“With the snow and exams we played two games in three weeks and we got out of rhythm,” McNeely said. “We haven’t looked good, but tonight we got it back.”
WEST ROWAN (51) — Steele 13, Dixon 10, Sobataka 9, Hall 8, S. Miller 6, Q. Miller 5.
CARSON (41) — Dulkoski 14, Allen 8, Barringer 8, Parks 4, Cole 3, Blackwell 2, Huffman 2, Clark, Gray .
W. Rowan 9 10 15 17 — 51
Carson 9 5 11 16 — 41