CHINA GROVE — East Rowan’s boys basketball season ended quietly, buried beneath a blanket of buckets by Carson’s Marquez McCain and Rameiq Howard.
McCain and Howard are Carson reserves, although either might be the main man for the Mustangs. That’s how big a disparity there is between the NPC rivals.
“We were better than Carson last year, but they’re better than us now,” East coach Trey Ledbetter said. “They’re good. They’ve got a chance to make a run.”
Third-seeded Carson’s 68-42 wipeout of sixth-seeded East in Monday’s first-round NPC tournament game was the Cougars’ fourth victory of the season over East. The closest margin was 10 points.
“We looked young all year and we looked like a football team playing basketball,” Ledbetter said. “But if our guys stick with it, we can be good next year.”
Ledbetter’s only seniors were Tyler L’ Hommedieu and Josh Gobble. He said they stayed positive and “poured heart and soul” into the program.
L’Hommedieu plowed for 11 points to lead East (6-18). Gobble’s five points included a second-quarter 3-pointer.
East scored the first five. Carson, with Tre Williams and Colton Laws getting seven each, scored the next 18.
“With Colton, Rameiq and Myquon (Stout), we’ve got a big advantage on East and focused on using our size inside,” Carson coach Brian Perry said.
Carson’s 18-0 run didn’t settle things. East trailed by only six when Ledbetter picked up a technical, and East was down only 31-21 at halftime.
When East scored the first three points of the second half, Perry had seen enough, and the timeout he called up 31-24 was the turning point in the game.
“We weren’t getting back fast enough at that point and weren’t giving ourselves a chance to be solid on defense,” he explained.
Carson held East to 25-percent shooting in the third quarter and pushed its lead to 17 points. McCain had three quick buckets in the period.
“We’re all trying to earn minutes, and I just try to get down the court every time just as fast as I can,” the swift sophomore said. “I was getting there before East.”
When D.J. Love knocked down a 3 with five minutes left, the Cougars (16-9) led by 25. The last big cheers came when Andrew Purcell bounced off the bench for a Carson 3-pointer, and Harrison Bell answered it for the Mustangs.
East lost Samuel Wyrick and Calvin Edwards during the game with back injuries, which made scoring against stingy Carson an even tougher task.
Carson has held 11 foes under 50.
“Our energy was too low in the first half, but we all brought more energy after that timeout in the third quarter,” Howard said. “Then we finished very strong and got the win.”
East’s score-sheet all season has looked like a February weather map — mostly 40s and 50s. The Mustangs averaged just 48 points per game this season.
“We got great looks, but the ball would not go down,” Ledbetter said. “It was a battle to get to the mid-40s. We just couldn’t score. That was the story tonight and the story all season.”
Carson will play West Rowan in a Thursday semifinal at 7:30 p.m. at North Iredell to determine the NPC’s No. 2 seed for the 3A state playoffs.
EAST ROWAN (42) —L’Hommedieu 11, Edwards 6, Bell 5, Gobble 5, Se. Wyrick 4, Corpening 4, Means 4, Honeycutt 2, Wyse 1, Caldwell, Moses, Sa. Wyrick, Brown .
CARSON (68) — Williams 13, Laws 13, Howard 11, McCain 10, Love 10, Raper 4, Stout 4, Purcell 3, Collins, Hower.
E. Rowan 5 16 9 12 — 42
Carson 18 13 16 21 — 68