LANDIS — It’ll be the boys game of the year because there won’t be another that includes two game-winning shots.
South Rowan fans always will believe that Qwan Rhyne hit a game-winner for the Raiders on Tuesday. The sophomore’s swisher with under three seconds left prompted a wild celebration from South players and fans as the scoreboard ticked down to zeroes.
Rhyne’s fabulous jumper over Tre Williams became just a footnote to history, however, when officials put four full seconds back on the clock, and Carson used all of that allotted time to put Williams in position for his own game-winning 3-pointer from the right wing.
Williams’ clutch shot is the one that will be remembered. It gave the Cougars a 71-70 NPC victory and kept them in great position to finish second in the league.
Meanwhile, the bitter loss for South (11-11, 4-6) puts the Raiders in jeopardy of not even making the playoffs.
South coach Bryan Withers was emotional but took the high road and didn’t beef about Carson’s extra second or so.
“We’ve got a good group and we gave it everything we have,” he said. “It’s a game we should’ve won. No, it didn’t bounce our way at the end, but we should never have let it come down to one shot.”
Carson (13-8, 7-2) got 23 points from Williams, who got 11 in the fourth quarter. And on a night when 6-foot-6 Colton Laws was quiet, the Cougars were bailed out by a career performance from Rameiq Howard, who wrestled for 16 points in the paint.
South’s backcourt was lights-out — Rhyne with 24 points and Shawn Spry with a career-best 23 before he got his fifth foul.
“We couldn’t stop them,” Carson coach Brian Perry said. “We’ve held a lot of teams to 50, but those two almost had that. Qwan was dynamite. Spry was on fire.”
Carson destroyed South 66-44 not that long ago. Rhyne was invisible in that game. He made up for it in the rematch.
“The first time we played Carson they outplayed us,” said South shotblocker Tvadis Wesley. “Tonight was about showing we can compete with them and showing people we’re one of the top teams in the county. I’ll always believe we should’ve won, but sometimes things happen.”
A dozen points by Howard pushed the Cougars to a 39-30 lead at the break.
Carson led by 11 late in the third quarter, but Wesley and Lavon Hill were swatting shots, and Spry and Rhyne were attacking and getting to the foul line, and the Cougars’ lead slowly melted.
When Rhyne made two free throws with 3:45 left, South forged ahead 58-57.
“We played defense only in spurts and South took advantage,” Williams said.
Then South’s Josh Medlin got involved. He hit a 3-pointer and got an and-one when he followed a missed dunk by Hill. South led 66-61 with 1:10 left, South fans were going crazy. The Cougars were reeling.
But Williams wouldn’t let the Cougars lose. With Carson down 68-65 with 38 seconds left, he tied it with a three-point play.
South then executed beautifully, running the clock down until Rhyne’s jumper.
But whoever had the ball last was going to win this one, and granted four seconds, Carson had time for a play, not a heave.
Howard fired a baseball pass past midcourt, Laws made the leaping catch, and rather than shooting, he found Williams. He had a clean look and he buried it.
“Give Colton all the credit,” Williams said. “No one but him could’ve gotten up to catch that ball, and he made a great pass. And give credit to South. They played an amazing game. It was just our night.”
CARSON (71) — Williams 23, Howard 16, Love 9, McCain 7, Raper 6, Laws 5, Hower 3, Stout 2.
SOUTH (70) — Rhyne 24, Spry 23, Medlin 10, Miller 6, Hill 4, Wesley 2, Tyler 2, Holbrook, Goldston.
Carson 19 20 16 16 — 71 S. Rowan 17 13 17 23 — 70