SPC boys basketball: East nips Carson

Published 3:18 am Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Staff report

GRANITE QUARRY — East Rowan’s boys were 0-4 in the South Piedmont Conference.

So was Carson.

Something had to give on Tuesday in the East gym,  and it was the Mustangs, who have been giving all season, who finally did the taking.

“We’ve had a lot of close ones where the ball just didn’t bounce our way,” winning coach Andrew Porter said. “But tonight it did.”

East 63, Carson 62 was the final.

To get to that destination, East (4-9)  had to overcome a 10-point deficit against a competent, confident Carson team (6-7) that was in control of things most of the night.

East got it done with an unlikely 13-0 run in the fourth quarter that carried the Mustangs from 54-48 down to 61-54 up.

An unlikely 13-0 run because the Mustangs got critical points from places they don’t always get them. It’s not like Tee Harris and Dylan Valley suddenly took over.

Carson beat East 79-67 in the Sam Moir Christmas Classic. That marked a season-high points total for the Cougars, who can cut opponents to pieces with the drive-and-kick game. East worked hard defensively to minimize Carson’s 3-point shooting. Carson still made eight 3-pointers, but only one in a drama-filled fourth quarter.

Carson did most of the things it wanted to and needed to do in order to win. The Cougars limited Harris, who had a tremendous height advantage, to 14 points and 10 rebounds. The Cougars could certainly live with that.

Carson again had Emory Taylor, a fast and tenacious defender, shadowing Valley, as soon as Valley came out of the locker room.

The first 13 minutes of the game, Valley didn’t scratch and he took some tough shots, but his teammates kept the Mustangs in the game. Before it was over, Valley showed why he’s got a chance to score 1,000 career points.

Taylor owned his individual battle with Valley in the first quarter, made two 3-pointers himself and helped Carson take a 12-10 lead.

Carson constructed a 10-point lead in the second quarter. It was 28-18 Cougars after Jonah Drye nailed a 3-pointer and hard-working Jay McGruder, who was a force on the offensive board, added a free throw.

With 2:44 left in the half, Valley drove for his first two of the night despite being blanketed by Taylor. Then Valley got a few inches of daylight and made a 3-pointer to help the Mustangs get to halftime, down by a manageable 29-24.

In the third quarter, with Carson shutting out Harris, Valley saved the Mustangs from being knocked out. He accounted for 10 of his team’s 13 in the quarter, including a second-chance 3-pointer after a teammate battled for an offensive rebound on Valley’s driving miss.

Carson was still getting points from Drye, Taylor and McGruder and took a 41-37 lead to the fourth quarter.

In the early stages of the fourth quarter, East got buckets from Hunter Brooks, Billy Chesney and Jaquare Jones to stay alive.

When Taylor got a three-point play off a backdoor cut, Carson led 54-48. There was 3:25 on the clock.

Carson would not score again for a very long time.

“We did a good job of taking the 3-pointer away and made it tough for them to score,” Porter said. “I was proud of our intensity on defense. We used some different defenses, mixed it up and we were able to keep Carson out of rhythm on offense. We got the stops we needed.”

Valley drove for the bucket that started East’s decisive 13-0 run. Then Valley scored on a transition layup. Taylor chased him down and made it a tough play, but all it got him was a foul. Valley missed the free throw, but it worked out perfectly for the Mustangs. Harris got a nice bounce off the iron for a pivotal stick-back, the Mustangs owned a four-point possession, and it was 54-all with 2:40 to play.

Garrett Lee, an energetic, 6-foot-5 East sophomore, than made one of the bigger shots of his career. He caught the ball near the foul line, realized he was wide open and confidently sank the 15-footer that gave East the lead.

Tijon Everhart calmly made two free throws for a four-point lead. Then Everhart scored on a drive. Lee came down with a defensive board and made one free throw for a 61-54 lead. That free one capped the Mustangs’ 13-0 run.

Carson ended its drought on a Taylor drive, got a 3-pointer from Drye and fought to the end.

The Mustangs missed three free throws in the final seconds to leave the door open for the Cougars, but Carson missed on two chances in the paint down the stretch. But it’s not easy to score in the paint against East. Lee and Harris are long guys.

McGruder scored 17, while Drye and Taylor scored 16 each for the Cougars. Valley finished with 19 for the Mustangs. Harris had 14 points and 10 rebounds. Lee had 12 and eight.

So the Mustangs and Cougars have won one each this season, with the second SPC matchup still to be played in China Grove.

Carson plans to make up the non-conference game at Statesville tonight that was postponed early in the season.

East will try to keep it rolling against South Rowan on Friday.

Carson   10   19   12   21   — 62

East       12    12   13   26    — 63

Carson — McGruder 17, Drye 16, Taylor 16, Ball 6, Guida 5, Burleyson 2.

East — Valley 19, Harris 14, Lee 12, Everhart 8, Jones 5, Chesney 2, Brooks 2, Haynes 1.