The Carson Senators were in a good situation. Down 48-47 with 27.4 seconds left against the Hug Hawks. The Senators were going to decide their own destiny, and that's all any sports team wants.
Carson coach Carlos Mendeguia took a timeout with 8.6 left to play. It was evident that he wanted to work the clock down to the end before taking a game-winning shot. Win or lose on one shot.
The ball ended up in Rafe King's hands with a shade more than 5 seconds left on the clock, but his 3-pointer bounced high off the backboard. Felix Cox got the rebound, and sank the ensuing two free throws to extend Hug's lead to 50-47 with 4.8 left. That's the way it ended when Matt Nolan's 3-point attempt was well off the mark.
Fortunately, the Senators won't have much time to lick their collective wounds. They will be back on the floor at 1:30 today to face the Bishop Manogue Miners in Reno.
"We had a few options on that last play," Mendeguia said. "On that play you have Bruce (McIntosh) flashing across the lane and then you have Kyle out on the wing. I think Rafe got a little overzealous. I think he had enough time to put the ball on the floor and get to the basket."
Hug coach Keith Crawford was pleased to get out of the game with his team's 12th win of the season.
"It was too close," Crawford said. "Carson is a tough place to play. Their kids really battle."
That was especially true in the third quarter when the Senators overcame a 28-19 half-time deficit with a 17-7 surge. Five of Hug's seven third-quarter points came from the foul line, and the Hawks managed just two points in the final six minutes of the period.
Trailing 33-23, McIntosh scored on a lay-up, and after the Hawks went downcourt twice and missed shots, Chris Lopez scored on a putback to make it 33-27 with 3:52 left in the third. Crawford called timeout, hoping to stem the tide.
The Hawks turned the ball over on the ensuing possession, and Alan Cohen scored to make it 33-29. The Hawks broke a 3 1/2-minute drought with two free throws from Jeremiah Williams to extend its lead to 35-29 with 2:40 left.
Carson scored on its next three possessions to take a 36-35 lead with 41.3 left. It was Carson's first lead since the sixth minute of the game. Matt Nolan started the surge with a nice drive to the basket and then Kyle Denning scored on a putback and a 3-pointer to make it 36-35.
Carson went to a smaller line-up in the third quarter, and the insertion of Denning and Austin Shaffer paid dividends according to Mendeguia.
"We settled down and got back into it," Mendeguia said. "The kids did a god job to get back into it. When we go small, we tend to run the offense a little better. With Austin and Denning in there it makes it tough on the other team. They are more patient on offense. Defense got us back into it today."
"It was fatigue," Crawford said, explaining his team's drop-off. "We'd been pressuring a lot, and we got tired, and I couldn't get the subs in quick enough."
Hug scored on its first two possessions of the fourth quarter to take a 39-36 lead with 7:05 left, but Kyle Steele drained a big 3-pointer, knotting the game at 39. Carson had a chance to take the lead again on its next possession, but missed four shots on one possession before turning the ball over.
Masaki Nakayama knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 42-39, and then Hug made another big play after Carson went two straight possessions without scoring. Sam Williams missed two free throws. Jeremiah Williams rebounded the ball and scored to make it 44-39 with 3:08 left.
"That was huge," Crawford said. "He made some big plays today for us at both ends of the floor."
"That was huge," Mendeguia said. "There's no excuse for that happening. You have to block out (first) and then go get the ball."
Carson fought back to tie the game on a bucket by Lopez and try by King, who led Carson with 14 points. Jeremiah Williams scored four straight points to make it 48-44 with 58.0 left. Nolan (11 points) knocked down a deep 3-pointer to close the gap to 48-47 with 37.3 left, setting the stage for the wild finish.