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Dale’s/Sam Moir: A.L. Brown boys edge Carson, 58-54

By Marny Hendrick

sports@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The third time was almost the charm for the Carson boys Thursday morning, but A.L. Brown made the plays in crunch time to pull out a 58-54 win at Catawba’s Goodman Gymnasium.

It was the opening round in the boys’ bracket of the 48th annual Dale’s/Sam Moir Christmas Classic and it was also the third time the Cougars and the Wonders squared off this season. Brown easily won the first two meetings by double figures, but Thursday’s game was a battle from beginning to end.

Carson (5-6) trailed by as many as seven points in the middle two quarters, but responded each time, behind the inside-outside play of guard AJ Mauldin and and 6-3 leaper EJ Clark. Mauldin rained in five 3-pointers, some from a different zip code, to score 17. Clark also had 17 points, mostly from battling around the basket, and grabbed eight rebounds.

The Cougars fought all the way back and actually took the lead at 45-43, with 6:42 left to play, on Clark’s baseline jumper. The Wonders (7-2) responded with a pair of clutch 3-pointers by Nick Colson to lead, 50-47.

The Brown margin reached five points at 54-49, with just 1:31 left, when Carson made their final push to pull off the upset. Clark’s three-point play cut the deficit to 54-52, with under a minute left. A corner 3-point attempt by Carson’s Denis Zuniga, for the lead, skimmed off the rim with 30 seconds left. Brown’s Mi’Keim Moore grabbed the rebound and fed Kheni Briggs, who drew a shooting foul with 19 seconds left. He hit both free throws to make the final margin 58-54.

Carson missed a couple of shots in the final seconds to try and get closer, but it was not to be.

“In a close game like this, it is obviously a possession by possession game,” said Cougars’ coach Brian Perry. “There were two or three possessions there at the end where we could have taken a charge or gotten a better shot. Our guys need to understand when you play a really good team like Brown, you have to play every possession like it was going to win or lose the game for you.”

A key for the Wonders was rebound superiority led by 6-6 senior JD Glenn and deadly free throw shooting by guard Amari Grier, who nailed 7-of-8 in the fourth period.

“I felt like we were able to out-rebound them and play good defense today,” Grier said. “It was a really tight game, but it was fun.”

Grier led the win with 16 points, 13 in the second half, including his clutch foul shooting. Glenn was right behind with 14 points and six rebounds while Moore scored 12 to go with five boards.

“I was just trying to get the win and move on to round two,” said Glenn, noting that good defense was the difference.

“Every time you play someone three times it gets a little tougher,” said veteran A.L. Brown coach Shelwyn Klutz, now in his 23rd season with the Wonders. “Carson has three really good players and we were lucky to get this one today. Down at the end, we really got some big stops and our guys dug in to make the plays and make the free throws.”

The Wonders now move to this afternoon’s semifinal game against second-seeded and defending champion Davie County (7-2) at 3:00. Carson will play in the consolation game at 10:30 this morning against neighbor South Rowan (1-8).

CARSON (54) — Mauldin 17, Clark 17, Smith 11, Allen 4, Zuniga 3, Harris 2, Taylor, Neely.

A.L. BROWN (58) — Grier 16, Glenn 14, Moore 12, Colson 8, Briggs 4, Foggie 2, Eccles 2, Chapman.

Carson             16     5   19   14 — 54

A.L. Brown     16   12   13   17 — 58

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