Ketchie, Cooper come alive as Carson takes down West

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 14, 2017

By David Shaw

CHINA GROVE — The best place to discover a treasure is not necessarily where they tell you to look.

Just ask the Carson girls basketball team. On a night when its headliners didn’t exactly make headlines, a couple of not-so-usual suspects stepped forward Monday to lift the Cougars past visiting West Rowan, 74-52, the their SPC tournament opener.

“They both came out and knocked shots down — and really early,” coach Brooke Misenheimer gushed after senior Kailie Ketchie (21) and freshman Maci Cooper (16) combined for 37 points. “When you’re making shots like that, everything moves easier.”

Ketchie and Cooper each made four 3-pointers and recorded career highs as third-seeded Carson (20-5) earned a semifinal date with Central Cabarrus Thursday night at Cox Mill High School.

“It feels great,” said Ketchie, who’s previous best was 13 points against Hickory Ridge last week. “Me and Maci did our jobs. We knocked down shots when they were there and drove when we had to. Shooting those threes just felt natural.”

West Rowan (13-12) suffered its fourth straight loss and was eliminated from the tournament. It likely will travel for a 3A state playoff game next Tuesday.

“For one, we didn’t take care of the ball,” losing coach Ashley Poole said after West suffered 28 turnovers. “And they were getting out in transition. We didn’t slow them down and make them play half-court against us — and they’re a very good transition team. I would have liked it if we made them work a little harder for it.”

Carson’s defense forced 10 turnovers in opening period as its offense burned with cohesion, knocking down four 3-pointers. There was a 45-second flurry when Ketchie nailed a long ball from the right corner and Cooper followed with a pair from the left side. When Cooper — who netted 11 first-quarter points — buried her third long ball of the game, a rainbow from deep in the right corner, the Cougars had a 22-13 lead.

“We were open most of the time,” said Cooper, a five-foot guard who averages 3.0 points-per-game off the Carson bench. “If not, we created our own shots.”

Carson had seven 3-pointers by halftime, the last when Ketchie connected 4:50 remaining in the second quarter. Carson nourished its lead to 41-24 at the half and 62-36 after three periods.

“We switched to a man (defense) after they started hitting 3-pointers,” Poole said afterward. “I might have waited too long to go to that. But it’s all part of our growing pains.”

The Cougars had only 13 turnovers and led by as many as 27 points on three different occasions in the second half. Freshman Abigail Wilson had 12 points for the Falcons, but none of her teammates cracked double figures. Carson sophomore McKenzie Gadson had a double-double (11 points, 11 rebounds) and junior Olivia Gabriel contributed 11 points and five steals.

“The funny thing is, that’s not our MO,” Misenheimer said after Carson finished with nine 3-pointers. “Are they good shooters? Absolutely. But we’d rather drive and dish. It opens up so many things for us. It worked for us tonight.”

NOTES: Sixth-seeded West has lost five of its last six games. … Carson dropped two regular-season matches with No. 2 seed Central Cabarrus (22-3), falling 57-55 before Christmas and 64-56 in January. Central advanced with a 51-33 win against Cox Mill. Thursday’s tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

WEST ROWAN (52) — Wilson 12, Alexander 8, Connolly 8, Robinson 7, Poole 6, Hillie 5, Sobataka 4, Pruitt 2, Blabon, K.Fesperman, Vaughters.

CARSON (74) — Ketchie 21, Cooper 16, Gadson 11, Gabriel 11, Shumaker 9, Street 2, S.Fesperman 2, Turney 2, Taylor, Jackson, Wiggins, Furr, Jolly.

West Rowan     13    11    12    16 — 52

Carson               22    19    21    12 — 74