Moir Basketball: Carson advances past West Rowan with defense

Published 11:25 pm Thursday, December 28, 2017

By Mike London

SALISBURY — There was a time when the Carson boys were going to lose if they didn’t shoot the ball well, but these Cougars are no longer one-trick ponies.

Carson is gritty enough, smart enough, experienced enough and tough enough that it can win even on a dismal shooting day.  Now in their 12th season, Carson’s boys have never been champions of anything, but that could change soon.

The top-seeded Cougars beat West Rowan, 70-52, on Thursday in the first round of the Dale’s Sporting Goods/Sam Moir Christmas Classic. They won going away, despite missing 23 of 28 3-point attempts.

“I thought we had great looks all day, and we have good shooters, but we just didn’t make shots,” Carson coach Brian Perry said. “Owen White had three or four that went in and out. Fortunately for us, Jamarius Hairston was on, and I thought we did a super job defensively.”

The 6-foot-4 Hairston got it done on both ends of the court. He scored 24 points on 8-for-13 shooting, but that was the part that comes easily for him. On the other end, he had to work. He jostled for position with West’s 6-8 Caleb Mauldin on nearly every possession. Hairston did his best to keep Mauldin from catching the ball, and if he did, Carson (10-0) immediately doubled Mauldin. The help kept coming from the right places, off the most unlikely shooters. Mauldin still managed 19 points and 15 rebounds, but Carson could live with that. You’re not going to stop Mauldin, the reigning Rowan County Player of the Year, but the Cougars contained him, and they advanced.

“I’ve been playing with and against Caleb for a lot of my life,” Hairston said. “You just work as hard as you can to keep it out of his hands.”

Cameron Prugh (13 points) got Carson started, making tough twos early, but eighth-seeded West (4-6) stayed right in the thick of things behind Mauldin, lively forward Tyrese Lawrence (14 points) and veteran guard Martavio Rankin (15 points). When Rankin made a free throw with 2:24 left in the first half, West led, 28-27, but then Carson closed the half with a 10-0 run. Jailen Williams and Owen White made jumpers during the run, while Hairston hit two 3-pointers.

“I haven’t been shooting that well, especially from 3, so the 3-point line was my main focus in our last practice,” Hairston said. “Today, I just felt it, and the shots fell. I haven’t always played well against West in the past, and I took that to heart. They beat us in the championship game here last year, so this was really big for us.”

West never recovered from that awesome Carson barrage at the end of the half.

“That 10-0 run they had, it’s like it just stunned us for some reason,” West coach Mike Gurley said. “It was like, after that, that we just accepted a loss. Yes, Carson has an experienced team, guys who have been successful, but that’s a wall we’ve got to push through. We’ve got to keep playing.”

Carson led, 39-30, when Lawrence got his fourth foul two minutes into the second half and had to sit down.  By the end of the third quarter, Carson had expanded its lead to 59-42, and it was all over.

“That was a tough foul on Lawrence because he was playing with the most energy of all our guys,” Gurley said.

Point guard Jailen Williams, who had 12 points, six rebounds and three steals, had Carson scooting up and down the floor in the second half. Carson scored 23 points off West turnovers, and Williams usually was in the middle of it.

“Defensively, we came to play today,” Williams said. “We did a great job on the boards and a great job of getting transition points.”

Carson’s shooters — White, Prugh and Cole Perry — made plenty of twos, but they were a combined 2-for-20 on 3-pointers. Williams didn’t make a long one either, but Hairston always made a play that picked up his teammates. He knocked down three 3-pointers and went 5-for-6 at the foul line. He also grabbed seven rebounds. White contributed eight rebounds and three assists.

Basically, the Cougars executed their game plan, especially in the middle two quarters when they outscored the Falcons, 47-30.

“We may not have shot a good percentage,” Hairston said. “But whenever we needed to make a shot, we did.”

Perry will be looking for the Cougars to make more shots tonight. They’ll take on No. 4 seed Davie County (8-2) in a 7:30 p.m. semifinal. Carson won at home against Davie last week.

WEST ROWAN (52) — C. Mauldin 19, Rankin 15, Lawence 14, Joseph 2, Dixon 2, Stolsworth, Tadlock, Sproul, Brawley, A.Mauldin, Myers, Hassard.

CARSON (70) — Hairston 24, White 13, Prugh 13, Williams 12, Perry 8, Sifford, Hales, Zuniga, Jackson, Dunn, Wike, Bates.

W. Rowan               12     16    14   10   — 52

Carson                     12     25    22   11  —  70