High school boys basketball: Concord pounds Cougars, advances to championship game

Published 2:07 am Thursday, February 16, 2023

Staff report

CONCORD — Concord’s boys basketball team has the misfortune of playing in the same league as Central Cabarrus, everyone’s pick as the best team in 3A.

That fact has made the Spiders a candidate for the most underrated team in 3A.

Concord hasn’t fared well against Central, but has generally abused its normal opponents, especially down the stretch.  Concord (18-7) is capable of making a pretty strong run in the playoffs.

Second-seeded Concord wrecked Carson 65-26 on Wednesday in a South Piedmont Conference semifinal played on Concord’s home floor.

All that hard-to-beat-a-team-three-times stuff went right out the window in the first five minutes. Sixth-seeded Carson couldn’t find any way to score and suffered through its lowest offensive production of the season. The 3-pointers weren’t falling, and there was no penetration of the Spiders’ defense.

Carson made about 30 patient passes on its first possession, finally settled for a long 3-point miss and went downhill from there.

“Had some good looks early, but nothing went down,” Carson coach Brian Perry said. “And the lack of offense seemed to kill our fire. It was a struggle all night, and Concord played well.”

Carson (11-14) was held under 40 points twice this season. Those two occasions were the Cougars’ last two games against Concord.

Carson nearly beat the Spiders early in the season, with Concord surviving 57-54. But the last two meetings were ugly. Carson didn’t get worse, which can only mean that Concord got a lot better from start to finish.

Keyon Phillips got the first bucket of the game by banging a 3-pointer, and that shot put Concord ahead to stay. Carson trailed the Spiders 15-5 after a quarter, and it was 39-13 at halftime.

Brayden Blue scored 24 for the Spiders, and as is often the case, was the best player on the floor. The 6-foot-3 senior made smooth jumpers and it was like he was made of elastic when he got   near the rim. He made some acrobatic, long-armed finishes.

Jay McGruder, who is usually Carson’s main 2-point guy, led the Cougars with nine points. It was a rough shooting night from the 3-point line for just about everyone.

Concord has lost 86-46 and 79-54 to Central Cabarrus.

Concord will get a third shot at Central in the tournament championship game on Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Carson may be done, although that won’t be official until pairings are released on Saturday. Carson appears to be barely on the wrong side of the bubble and may be the best 3A that doesn’t get in the playoffs.

Carson     5      8       7    6 — 26

Concord   15  24  21   5  —  65

Carson — McGruder 9, Burleyson 6, Taylor 3, Guida 3, Drye 3, Howard 2.