High school basketball: East boys end drought vs. Cougars
Published 12:00 am Friday, January 15, 2021
CHINA GROVE — East Rowan’s boys snapped a 13-game losing streak against rival Carson on Thursday.
COVID-reduced Carson played the North Piedmont Conference game with seven healthy bodies in uniform, but basically relied on five.
East managed to win 62-55 in overtime. Three Cougars fouled out, leaving them with four on the floor at the very end.
East will take a win over Carson under any circumstances. The last one against the Cougars came in the 2014-15 opener when Austin Love, Bravon Goodlett, Naquis Caldwell and Tay Davis did most of the damage for the Mustangs. Those seem like names from a different time. East’s group of senior guards were sixth-graders then.
There were no howling, heckling student sections as there normally would have been for East-Carson, so players had to provide their own energy.
Fighting through adversity was the theme for both head coaches.
Both of them, Carson’s Brian Perry, the only head coach the program has ever had, and East’s Andrew Porter, brand new to what is an intense rivalry in just about any sport, expressed pride in their team’s performance.
For Carson, the adversity was obvious. Sheer numbers. The math wasn’t on the Cougars’ side. Every whistle was a potential problem. Carson wasn’t exactly feared when the season began and the Cougars were playing this one without Emory Taylor, who led them to a win against South Rowan. They were playing without freshman big man Tristen McBride. They were playing without senior Brodie Johnson, who has been making some 3s.
For East, which has a pretty impressive and experienced roster on paper, the adversity was being placed in the unusual position of being favored to win at Carson, being expected to win against a short-handed team that had everything to gain and nothing to lose. All the pressure was on the Mustangs. And then East got down in the first quarter and not much was going right.
But the Mustangs turned it around.
“We fought through a lot tonight and wouldn’t quit,” Porter said. “I thought it was a big one for us, a big win, an exciting win. Carson was well-prepared and well-coached, but we forced turnovers and made enough good things happen in the overtime period to pull it out.”
East (2-2, 1-1) got balanced scoring, with Landon Shuping, Dylan Valley and Cameron Padgett leading the way with 11 points each.
“The more balanced we are, the more dangerous we are,” Porter said.
Carson (1-2, 0-1) got career efforts from Mikey Beasley (18 points), Jay Howard (16) and AJ Merriman (13).
Beasley and Howard are sophomores. Just a few years ago, they probably would have been leading Carson’s jayvees, instead of the varsity. They grew up some against the Mustangs.
Merriman is a football player who came out of basketball retirement because he’s an athlete and his school was desperate.
“We had it with about two minutes to go in regulation, but then we made some mistakes,” Perry said. “We had breakdowns defensively. We lost Valley a few times after we’d done a pretty good job on him all night. But I’ve got no complaints. Our guys played their butts off. They couldn’t have competed any harder than they did and we’ve got a bunch of sophomores who are learning. We had screw-ups, but in a way they were good screw-ups. We didn’t know if we’d be in any games at the end, but we’ve played three so far and two have come down to the end. So we’ll learn from this. We’ll work on playing with a lead. And maybe if we can get in that situation again, we’ll handle it better.”
EAST (62) — Shuping 11, Valley 11, Padgett 11, Jones 9, Pinckney 7, Sprinkle 5, Young 4, Jordan 4.
CARSON (55) — Beasley 18, Howard 16, Merriman 13, Burris 4, Collins 2, Barrera 2, Epley.
E. Rowan 9 17 6 17 13 — 62
Carson 14 15 6 14 6 — 55