Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 9, 2014

CHINA GROVE — Carson senior Kate Cole scored 15 points in the fourth quarter alone, and usually you can smile and accepts pats on the back after doing something like that.
But not this time. All Cole’s effort did was keep Carson’s girls competitive. They lost to Hickory Ridge 70-58 on Wednesday.
“It was one of the most frustrating losses we’ve had,” Cole said. “It’s one thing to lose a game, but it’s another thing to lose to a good team. Hickory Ridge is a good team, but we had every opportunity to beat them tonight. We didn’t, and that stinks a little bit.”
Hickory Ridge (7-5, 5-2) doesn’t stink, and the Ragin’ Bulls may be a factor in the SPC race even though they’ve dropped games to first-place East Rowan and second-place Central Cabarrus.
Five Ragin’ Bulls were in double figures, and it’s hard to find that kind of balance on any other SPC team.
“Hickory Ridge is very good, their height made them a tough matchup, and we knew they’d crash the boards on us,” Carson coach Brooke Misenheimer said. “We can’t control our height, but we didn’t take care of some things we can control — like free throws.”
Carson shot 41 free throws and seemed to be at the foul line the entire second half. But the Cougars only made 20.
Hickory Ridge was deadly on free throws, and the Bulls had two double-doubles. Zharia Brown had 19 points and 13 rebounds, while Kenya Jones had 11 points and 11 rebounds. Kiana Davis had 15 points and five assists. Stacia Means scored 10 points and slowed down Carson’s Alex Allen.
“Stacia’s defense was key,” HR coach Tolonda Simmons said. “She bounced back from a tough first half and did a great job on Allen in the second half.”
Allen had 12 points at halftime. She finished with 16, and when she fouled out with 3:12 remaining, Carson’s setback was assured.
Carson (7-6, 4-3) had a four-game league winning streak broken but is still a top-half team in the SPC.
It was an even first half. Allen hit a jumper for a 20-all tie, and then she made two free throws for a 22-22 deadlock at the break.
The third quarter was decisive. When Allen scored inside, Carson trailed 31-30, but then the Cougars missed a string of free throws, while Hickory Ridge had a flurry of putbacks and fastbreaks. With Jones getting three layups in a hurry, the Ragin’ Bulls had a 10-0 run to end the quarter up 41-30.
The fourth quarter was one of the longest in recorded history. Hickory Ridge made 15 free throws in the period, while Carson made 14. Cole cashed in seven free ones, and Chrishona Roberson hit three.
Cole, who didn’t score in the first half, finished with 20 points, one short of her career high, and she pushed the Cougars as close as 64-56 down the stretch.
“I just didn’t want to lose,” she said.
But lose the Cougars did.
“Carson was scrappy and they fought us right down to the end,” Simmons said. “We didn’t expect anything less. It’s a good road win.”
HICKORY RIDGE (70) — Brown 19, Davis 15, Jones 11, Means 10, McManimen 10, Wallace 3, Ratliff 2.
CARSON (58) — Cole 20, Allen 16, Roberson 6, Gray 6, Huffman 5, Van Voorhis 2, McClary 2, Clark 1, Jackson.
Hick. Ridge 12 10 19 29 — 70
Carson 11 11 8 28 — 58