SALISBURY — Fans left Goodman Gym shaking their heads about East Rowan sophomore Naquis Caldwell, but Carson’s veterans won a first-round game in the Moir Classic.
Caldwell’s 27 points and 14 rebounds gave the Mustangs a chance on Thursday, but he missed his last four shots, and the Cougars won 60-49 to advance to today’s 4:30 semifinal.
Carson seniors Colton Laws, Tre Williams and MyQuon Stout combined for 25 rebounds. Laws scored 17 points, while Williams had 16.
No. 6 seed East shot 32.2 percent, and if you take away Caldwell’s 12-for-20, Mustangs not named Naquis shot 18 percent. That didn’t get it done against experienced, third-seeded Carson (7-3).
“But Caldwell was really tough,” Carson coach Brian Perry said. “There were times when we struggled to compete with him. We got beat off the dribble a lot in the first half, and then when we tried to go help, he’d get the stickback.”
Caldwell scored 25 when East stunned West Rowan and showed that breakout was no fluke.
“Naquis is everything that I heard he might be,” East coach Trey Ledbetter said. “We’ve been very dependent on Donte (Means) to score for us. Now we’ve got a pretty good 1-2 punch.”
The Mustangs (3-7) led 16-12 when Carson put together a 14-0 run that bridged the first and second quarters and included driving “and-ones” by Williams and Jonathan Rucker and a surprise 3-ball and a soaring tip-in by Andrew Hower.
“There were times that we couldn’t get into our offense,” Caldwell said. “We just need more consistency.”
Carson led 36-31 at the break, but the halftime stat-sheet showed Caldwell already had 17 points.
“It took us a while to adjust to the longer court, and East got some fast ones in the first half,” Laws said. “No. 12 (Caldwell) is very good, but the plan in the second half was for me to box him out on every play and to let MyQuon go to the rim for the rebound.”
East got within 48-46 in the fourth quarter on a runner by Means, but Stout powered in a critical layup to stop the run.
“The difference in the game was Carson’s offensive rebounding,” Ledbetter said.
EAST (49) — Caldwell 27, Means 8, Sa. Wyrick 8, Bell 2, Moses 2, Wyse 2, Corpening, Love, Se. Wyrick, Soles.
CARSON (60) — Laws 17, Williams 16, McCain 9, Raper 6, Stout 5, Hower 5, Rucker 2, Isom, Herron.
East 16 15 8 10 — 49
Carson 20 16 9 15 — 60