Baby steps. It's what teams take when a new coach comes in and installs a new offense. Improvement has come in tiny increments for the Carson Senators under first-year head coach Nathan Tolbert.
The Senators, thanks to 20 points from Savannah Smith, improved to 3-1 in league with a 53-42 win over Damonte Ranch Thursday night at Morse Burley Gym.
Carson, which won two consecutive league games this week, returns to action Dec. 26 at Livermore High, and then will participate in the West Coast Jamboree Dec. 27-29.
"We are winning the games we should win," Tolbert said. "The games against Elko and Lovelock are games we could have won, and I'd like us to win those type of games."
"Practicing and working together has helped," Smith said. "The first game (against Reno) was a rough one. We've improved since then. We need to bring intensity to every game."
The teams traded baskets in the first quarter, which ended in a 17-all tie. Taylor Nuttall's 3-point buzzer-beater got the Mustangs even.
The score was tied at 21 and 23, the latter deadlock with 2:36 left in the half. Carson scored nine straight points to open up a 32-23 lead with 5:11 left in the third quarter, holding Damonte scoreless for approximately 5 1/2 minutes.
Maddi Saarem, who finished with seven points, got the surge started with a free throw and Smith scored on a nice reverse layup and jump shot to make it 28-23. An Elena Thurman follow shot and another jump shot by Smith gave the Senators their nine-point lead.
A 3-pointer and three-point play by Nuttall and a bucket by Morgan Miller trimmed Carson's lead to 34-31 with less than three minutes left in the period. A 3-pointer by Madison Preston (7 points) and a drive by Smith stretched the lead to 39-31.
Smith was her usual aggressive self in trying to get to the basket. In this game, she appeared a little more under control when doing so.
"I think I'm getting more comfortable," Smith said. "I take what I can and do what is needed to do."
"I'd like her (Smith) to bring up the ball less," Tolbert said. "She was more patient and waited for her openings."
Leading 41-34 after three quarters, Carson opened the fourth quarter with a 10-1 run, spearheaded by Natali Salas (7 points) and Smith. Damonte turned the ball over four straight times and missed a free throw in that stretch.
Salas scored two straight baskets in a 30-second span, and after a Damonte turnover, Smith scored on a drive to the basket to make it 47-34 with 7:10 left in the contest. Damonte scored on a free throw, and then Salas and Smith scored to make it 51-35 with 5:21 left.
"She (Salas) is always aggressive at attacking the basket," Tolbert said.
"I think she (Salas) is stepping up," Smith said of her teammate. "She's becoming more of a team player."
Damonte made it interesting with seven straight points to close to 51-42 with 2:14 remaining, but the double-digit lead was simply too much to overcome.
JV GIRLS: Strong half-court defense led the Carson JV girls to a 44-28 win over Damonte on Thursday.
Ivy Pembrook led the team with 12 points. Michelle Perry and Lindy Lehman each added eight points.
Carson is 5-3 overall and 3-0 in league. The Senators return to action Wednesday against Spanish Springs at the Damonte Ranch tournament.
FRESHMEN: So far this season the Carson girls have been slow starters, that all changed Thursday night as Carson scored 20 first-quarter points en route to a 50-15 win over Damonte.
Serena Miller had 21 points, seven rebounds, three assists and five steals to lead the Senators. Andrea Maffei added five assists. Brianna Alvarado added six points and five steals. Claudia Arechiga pulled down seven rebounds.