High school basketball: Carson boys peaking late, move on to SPC tournament

Published 4:59 pm Saturday, February 12, 2022

By Mike London

SALISBURY — Carson’s boys basketball team is going out with a bang, while East Rowan’s season ended with a thud.

The Cougars stifled the Mustangs for an emphatic 53-27 victory on Saturday afternoon. Carson (6-18) has doubled its season victory total in the last four days.

“Winning at West Rowan (on Wednesday) changed the confidence level of everyone by 100 percent,” Carson guard Emory Taylor said.

Added Carson head coach Brian Perry, “Shots that we didn’t make all year — now they’re falling for us.”

Small but aggressive, Carson got 18 points from youngster Colin Ball and dominated the Mustangs (7-15) with shocking ease in a play-in game for the South Piedmont Conference Tournament that was contested at neutral Salisbury High.

‘We just didn’t have it today,” East coach Andrew Porter said. “We played a step behind Carson in the first half. We played harder in the second half, but it was too late.”

The teams tied for sixth in the regular season with 4-10 league records and split their meetings.

Carson earned the No. 6 seed for the tournament and will play at No. 3 seed Northwest Cabarrus at 7:30 p.m. on Monday.

Taylor got it started for the Cougars. East gave him some room and he swished two 3-pointers from the top of the wheel for a quick 8-0 lead.

Taylor had the toughest defensive assignment against East’s high-scoring guard Dylan Valley, who had torched the Cougars for 22 when East beat them 69-64 Feb. 4 in Granite Quarry. Taylor held him to seven this time, getting up in his face to take away the 3-point line and forcing tough shots from difficult angles when Valley drove.

“Valley is more than a 3-point shooter now and puts the ball on the floor well,” Perry said. “He burned us the last time we played them, but Emory did a great job on him today, and when Emory got screened we had guys there to help. We played smart. Defensively, we did a good job of keying on the people we needed to key on.”

East’s 27 was, by far, a season low. That’s the same team that put up 80 on opening night back in November.

Carson had held a team to 27 once this season, but that was South Rowan, a squad that doesn’t have a shooter like Valley or a presence like 6-foot-6 Tee Harris.

Harris was held to a season-low four by a committee of determined Cougars.

“Hunter Burris and Garrison Collins did one heck of a job against Tee,” Taylor said. “They walled him up, made him shoot over them.”

With Valley and Harris shut down, East couldn’t find alternative ways to score. The Mustangs tallied just one point — that’s right, one — in a brutal second quarter. Carson got a productive quarter from Jay Howard and led 24-9 at the halftime break.

While Carson played with far more fire in the first half, East tried to pick up the tempo in the third quarter.

A call that could’ve gone either way damaged East’s comeback attempt. Valley had a tumbling, three-point play wiped out by a charging call, and Porter got a technical foul for expressing his considerable dismay with that officiating decision.

Things got heated for the next few minutes, with double technicals assessed against East’s Kee Ellis and Carson’s Mikey Beasley, as referees tried to regain control.

East got back within 11, but Ball made a left-side 3-pointer for 32-18, while practically falling into the bleachers to halt the Mustangs’ charge.

“The ball was kicked out to me, we needed something big, and I had a little bit of daylight,” Ball said. “I let it fly.”

Ball struggled early in the season, but the freshman has become one of Carson’s most reliable scorers the second half of the season. He’s put a 16, a 17, two 18s and a 19 in the scorebook.

“I missed the first three games of the season with COVID and then there was an adjustment period for me because the speed and size of high school ball was a shock,” said Ball, a product of China Grove Middle School.

It was 40-19 Cougars by the end of the third quarter.

It was 44-19, and all over with, after Burris passed to a cutting Taylor for a layup.

Both teams finished the game with reserves on the floor. Corbin Hales and Bryson Bare made free throws to finish off the romp for Carson.

“It’s a big win for us,” Perry said. “We’re glad we get to keep playing. Now we’ve got to take this same level of enthusiasm down to Northwest Cabarrus on Monday.”

Northwest’s strength is defense. The Trojans beat the Cougars 49-43 and 50-37 in the regular season.

East          8    1    10   8   — 27

Carson    14  10   16  13   — 53

EAST — Valley 7, Harris 4, Ellis 4, Wemboula 4, Everhart 3, Dale 3, Hoesman 2.

CARSON — Ball 18, Howard 10,Taylor 10, Beasley 6, Burleyson 3, Hales 2, Burris 2, Collins 1, Bare 1.