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Moir Christmas Classic: Carson girls rout South Rowan

Carson rolls into championship game

Carson’s Taylor Conrad 15. photo by Wayne Hinshaw, for the Salsbury Post

By David Shaw

sports@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY —Brooke Stouder was wrong — but only by an eyelash.

Before Friday night’s semifinal at Goodman Gym, the longtime Carson girls basketball coach made a reference to her team’s 31-point victory over South Rowan in a Dec. 5 non-league contest.

“This one will be closer,” she said nervously.

It wasn’t. Carson’s 69-37 rout in the Christmas Tournament semifinals lifted the unblemished Cougars into tonight’s championship game with Salisbury — a team that presents more than a handful of obstacles.

“We’re excited,” Stouder said after defending champion Carson won its 13th game without a loss. “Salisbury is a good team that shoots the ball really well. But we’re happy to be back in the finals and looking to win one more.”

The Cougars used a magma-hot start to drop South (5-4) into a deep, first-quarter hole. Three-pointers by Colbie Perry and Taylor Conrad sparked a 10-0 launch, a lead that bulged to 18-2 before the game was five minutes old.

“We had a lot of momentum coming into the game,” senior McKenzie Gadson said. “We had won our first game (Thursday) and South is always a rivalry. We always want to beat them.”

Carson was adept at working the ball into the corners for open looks. It’s defense, meanwhile, forced 13 first-half turnovers that led to several breakaway baskets and a 26-9 advantage following Carleigh Perry’s fourth field goal of the game with 5:52 remaining in the first half.

“We try to get most of our points off our defense,” said Conrad, one of four Carson scorers to crack double figures. “But I went in there and felt confident. Usually I’m nervous about shooting, but I used all that early momentum to calm down.”

Conrad hit two long balls in the opening four minutes, then helped fuel another 10-0 run in the third period that provided a 48-21 lead.

“I just think their experience — and having been in the championship last year — really made a difference,” said South coach Stacy Ellis. “You didn’t see any panic on them. And any time we tried to change to a different defense and take the (Colbie) Perry kid away, they didn’t flinch.”

South, which faces West Rowan in today’s third-place game, was led once again by senior Janiya Downs. One night after dropping 37 first-round points on East Rowan, the 5-11 guard tossed in a game-best 27 — including all 18 of South’s second-half points.

“Janiya is a very good player and they’ve got some supporting cast,” said Stouder. “I just think we got off to a very good start and were able to maintain that throughout the game.”

Downs made four 3-pointers, despite looking uncomfortable on the floor. “Well, we did a good job keeping her in front of us,” said Conrad. “We stayed in our stance, cut off the baseline and forced her along the sidelines.”

“We forced her to shoot the ball, rather than drive,” Gadson added. “She’s more dangerous when she’s moving.”

It never improved for the Raiders, who had their modest, three-game winning streak halted.

“Whenever we gave up a three — or if someone hit a big bucket on us — we were like, ‘Oh God, here we go again,'” Ellis explained. “You’ve got to compete for 32 minutes. We just didn’t.”

NOTES: Downs boosted her career total to 1,781 points and needs 14 to match the school record set by current UNC Pembroke player Avery Locklear (1,795). …  All 10 players on Carson’s roster scored. … South finished with 20 turnovers while Carson had only eight. … Carson beat South, 54-40, in last year’s championship game. Salisbury beat the Cougars for the crown in 2016.

SOUTH ROWAN (37) — Downs 27, Rymer 5, McGuire 3, Shell 2, Littlejohn, P.Chabala, Harrington, Faw.

CARSON (69) — Conrad 14, Gadson 14, Ca.Perry 12, Wilhelm 10, Co.Perry 5, Cooper 4, Post 4, Hales 2, Isley 2, Gamewell 2.

South Rowan     9     10     8    10 — 37

Carson                18    20   16    15 — 69

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