CHINA GROVE — “We just got lucky,” has been Carson coach Brian Perry’s tongue-in-cheek theme song recently, and his Cougars got fortunate for the 10th time in their last 12 games on Wednesday.
Carson beat visiting West Rowan 63-60 in a terrific NPC game that had two faces. It was a shootout in the first half, a grinding, physical defensive struggle in the second half.
Perry’s rabbit’s foot was amazing junior Tre Williams, who has point guard skills but also uses his stout body to rebound like a power forward.
“As a point guard, Tre’s got to be a leader, and he was that tonight,” Perry said. “When we needed a big play, he made a humongous one.”
After West’s Najee Tucker scored inside with 1:18 remaining for a 58-all tie, both teams missed opportunities.
At least until Williams made the pivotal move with a drive right down the lane for a game-swinging three-point play with 25 seconds left.
“Daisean (Reddick) was pushing right up on me, and I felt like I could get by him,” Williams said. “My teammates had spread things out for me, and I had a wide-open lane.”
West coach Mike Gurley handed out bouquets to Williams.
“When good players get opportunities they make plays, and Tre is a very good player,” Gurley said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for him and a lot of respect for his game.”
While Carson (12-7, 6-1) has been hot, so has West (7-11, 5-2). The Falcons had a five-game winning streak snapped, and they were close to taking another one. After a 1-8 start, West was fighting for second place on Wednesday.
“A lot of people thought we were going to just mail this season in, but I’ve got 11 kids who weren’t interested in doing that, and 10 of them will be back next year,” Gurley said.
It appeared early that West finally had decided to visit the post office. Carson took a 9-0 lead on a Jacob Raper 3-pointer, and Colton Laws (14 points) and Rameiq Howard overwhelmed the Falcons inside the first 10 minutes.
Carson’s lead peaked at 25-11 two minutes into the second quarter, but Reddick hit two 3s, and then Seth Martin hit two 3s, and West had suddenly clawed right back into it.
West got some aggressive offense from Devin Parks and Celexus Long (17 points) in the third quarter, locked up the Cougars defensively, and took a 44-43 lead to the final period.
“Celexus got hot and we just kept on playing hard,” Tucker said. “That’s what West Rowan does.”
When Tucker elevated for a short jumper with 3:47 left, West led 52-48. That would’ve been a signal for past Carson teams to fold, but not this one.
Williams made his huge play, Raper hustled to force a possession-changing jump ball, Laws made a clutch free throw, and the Cougars pulled it out.
“We made mistakes and we had breakdowns, but we got lucky,” Perry said with a grin. “That’s what we do.”
WEST ROWAN (60) — Long 17, Tucker 10, Reddick 10, Martin 9, Parks 8, Hassard 2, Gabriel 2, Morrison 2, Blackwood, Philips, Gallagher.
CARSON (63) — Williams 24, Laws 14, Howard 8, Love 6, Raper 5, McCain 4, Stout 2, Hower.
W. Rowan 7 25 12 16 — 60
Carson 17 19 7 20 — 63