If Carson High can play the rest of the season like it did in the second quarter Thursday, the Senators will be one tough team to beat the rest of the season.
Thanks to 16 second-quarter points by senior Rafe King, the Senators outscored Damonte Ranch 29-12 en route to a 66-56 Sierra League win at Morse Burley Gym.
Carson improved to 3-1 in Division I play. The Senators travel to San Diego to play Mesa-Arizona in the opening round on Wednesday. Tip-off is set for 9 p.m.
"This was a big win," Carson coach Carlos Mendeguia said. "We always talk about coming out ready to play. The kids knew this was an important game. I thought we came out a little tight in the first quarter.
"Once we settled down in the second quarter I thought we did a great job. I knew we wouldn't have a problem scoring points. It was going to be a matter of getting key stops. They had scored in the high 80s their last two games, and I thought if we kept them in the 50s we had a great chance to win."
Carson did struggle defensively which enabled Damonte Ranch to grab a 17-11 lead in the first 6 minutes and 22 seconds of the game.
That's when Carson, and King, really woke up. In the final 9 1/2 minutes of the first half, Carson outscored Damonte 35-12 for a 46-29 halftime lead. The Senators were 20-for-30 from the floor in the first 16 minutes, an impressive 66 percent.
The surge started late in the first quarter when King, who led all scorers with 27 points, scored on a layup, and then Matt Nolan (16 points) scored two buckets in the final 36 seconds of the first quarter, tying the game at 17.
The Senators went on a 16-4 run to open the second quarter en route to a 33-21 lead. Kyle Steele knocked down a 3-pointer, and following a Damonte miss, King scored his first bucket of the period. He would add a 3-pointer and another bucket later to complete the surge.
After Justin Bridgman scored for the Mustangs, King would score nine of Carson's next 11 points to make it 44-26, which was the Senators' biggest lead of the game.
"We were going up and down the floor," King said. "I like it when we can play like that. When Matt and I have the ball we can dominate. I started out attacking the basket which helped me from the outside. I started shooting 3s and they were dropping."
Mendeguia said he didn't realize that King had 25 of his 27 in the opening half.
"I was too tuned into the game," Mendeguia said. "Rafe has gotten stronger this season. He is able to get to the glass and isn't a 1-dimensional player anymore. He's more of a physical player."
In the second half, Carson got off to a slow start, as Damonte turned two Carson mistakes into two baskets to make it 46-33. On the second turnover, King lost control of the dribble and then rolled his ankle, falling to the floor in pain. He went immediately into the training room.
Carson hung tough without King, as Damonte had just a 9-7 edge in the five-minute stretch that he missed and still trailed 53-42 when King returned.
"After Rafe hurt his ankle I think the guys got tight," Mendeguia said. "Anytime a team loses a top player that sort of thing tends to happen."
Carson opened the fourth quarter with two baskets in the first minute, one by Steele and one from Bruce McIntosh for a 59-45 lead. A bucket by David Crowley and a putback by Kyle Daugherty cut Carson's lead to 59-49 with 5:12 left in the game.
Two free throws by Brett Cooper and a dunk by Crowley (24 points) made it 61-53 with 2:24 left, but King scored on a nice drive to the basket and Austin Shaffer converted a Damonte Ranch turnover into a la-up and a 12-point lead.
JV BOYS WIN: Four players reached double figures to lead Carson to a 66-51 win over Damonte at Morse Burley Gym.
Robby Miller led the way with 15 points, Asa Carter added 11, and Ian Schulz and Jared Rooker contributed 10 apiece.