CHINA GROVE — If one more layup had fallen for Carson’s girls last Thursday, the Cougars would’ve shared the NPC championship.
Instead, even at 19-6, they are just a No. 3 tournament seed in search of respect and confidence.
They regained some confidence by shooting 50 percent for the first three quarters in Monday’s 59-40 first-round win against West Iredell.
And now they have a chance to work on the respect part of the equation when they take on No. 2 seed West Rowan in a tournament semifinal. That marquee matchup will take place on Thursday at 6 p.m. at North Iredell.
West Iredell (4-17) concentrated its defense on Kelly Dulkoski and Allison Blackwell, as every one is doing now. Dulkoski still scored 29 and did it on 13-for-26 shooting. Blackwell was held to two field goals but went 6-for-8 at the foul line and scored 10.
“We focused on the two shooters,” WI coach Chante Miller said. “It was working for a while, but then we stopped executing.”
All five Carson starters scored as the Cougars pushed to a 17-8 lead after a quarter.
“We’ve been in a rut, so it was great to see shots falling again,” Carson guard Kate Cole said.
Dulkoski nailed five 2s in the second quarter, but the Warriors still chopped a 13-point Carson lead down to 31-23 at halftime.
“West Iredell ended the second quarter playing very well and playing hard,” Carson coach Brooke Misenheimer said. “They had all the momentum at halftime, so we really needed to play well to start the third quarter.”
Carson did. The Cougars shot a sizzling 9-for-16 in the third period, while holding West Iredell to 3-for-18, and they blew the game open. Dulkoski buried two 3s in the quarter while shutting out West Iredell star Elizabeth Webb on the other end.
That solid quarter brought Carson up to 50-percent shooting, before benches were cleared.
“We haven’t seen 50 percent in quite some time here,” Misenheimer said. “But we’ve been getting those high-percentage shots every game. We just did a better job of making them tonight.”
Alex Allen had eight points and 11 rebounds despite foul trouble. Katherine Barringer blocked three shots and grabbed eight rebounds. Cole had six points and even rejected three shots.
“We got the momentum back with that good third quarter,” Cole said. “That was a huge thing.”
WEST IREDELL (40) —Webb 15, Feimster 7, Summers 6, Morrison 5, Boggs 3, Allison 2, Heath 2, Coleman, Shouse, McGee.
CARSON (59) — Dulkoski 29, Blackwell 10, Allen 8, Cole 6, Barringer 4, Huffman 2, Parks, Gray, Clark, VanVoorhis.
W. Iredell 8 15 7 10 — 40
Carson 17 14 20 8 — 59