It takes a lot to impress Carson High basketball coach Carlos Mendeguia, and his basketball team did him proud Tuesday night.
The veteran coach tossed out praise like it was candy, and with good reason.
Thanks to 27 points by Rafe King and tremendous team defense, the Senators pounded Spanish Springs 56-36 Tuesday night at Morse Burley Gym.
What makes the win even more impressive is that Carson played without three of its top bench players - Kyle Denning (illness), Bruce McIntosh (ankle) and Austin Shaffer (concussion). Shaffer's injury happened during pre-game warmups when he was hit in the head by a ball.
"By far our biggest win of the season," Mendeguia said. "They are the No. 2 team on the other side. They beat Hug by 18 and Galena by 6.
"It was an outstanding defensive effort. Alan Cohen really stepped up. We gave him a tough assignment (Austin Damoth). He and Rafe really stepped up and did a good job at the bottom part of our zone. It was a great team effort."
Spanish Springs' top three scores - Damoth, Kenny Meyer and T.J. McCauley - combined for 25 points. McCauley scored 13, but nine of those came in the fourth when the outcome had been decided. Meyer had eight and Damoth four.
Carson started fast, scoring 12 of the game's first 14 points, including eight by King. However, the Carson star picked up his second personal foul with 40 seconds left in the opening period, forcing him to the bench. He didn't play at all until the third quarter, but Carson still led 17-12 in a rather low-scoring 16 minutes.
"That was huge (that we still led)," Mendeguia said. "We got a great effort from Dylin Rooker and Sage Smith. They gave us high energy. Charlie (Banfield) came in a couple of times and played well."
Then it was King's turn to step up, and boy did he ever. The 6-foot-3 sharpshooter threw in 15 points in the third quarter, enabling the Senators to go up by 23, 43-20, after three periods. He went 4-for-6 from the floor, including three 3-pointers, and made two from the line.
King's trio of 3-pointers led an 11-2 run which upped the Senators' lead to 28-15 with 5:06 left in the third. After Spanish Springs' Connor Naisbitt sank a 3-pointer, Carson ran off 11 straight for a 39-18 lead.
Cohen started the surge with a three-point play, Chris Lopez followed with a basket and Cohen added another basket to make it 35-18.
King hit two free throws and then followed in his own miss to complete the barrage.
"He was huge tonight," Mendeguia said. "Anytime he touches the ball he is a threat to score, whether it's from the outside or going to the basket. He's been playing well the last few games."
"I just kept shooting and it was going in," King said. "They were giving me room each time I got the ball. They gave me space to shoot it.
"I felt a lot better against Reed than I did tonight. My form felt better that night."
Spanish Springs turned up the pressure in the fourth quarter, forcing Carson into some mistakes. Two 3-pointers by McCauley and a bucket by Hunter Pinto cut Carson's lead to 47-29 with 4:18 left.
"They were making it a little crazy," Mendeguia said. "They want you to jack a shot up from the corner, but we didn't do that. There are times when you are going to turn the ball over."
JV BOYS BASKETBALL
Spanish Springs 44, Carson 38
Carson fell to 11-13 after a tough loss to Spanish Springs.
Asa Carter led Carson with 15 points, while Julian Alvarado added eight, Ian Schulz seven and Jared Rooker six.