RENO - All even with two to go.
That's the situation Carson faces after its 57-53 loss to Damonte Ranch Friday night in a Sierra League boys basketball game.
Both teams are 8-6 with two games left in the regular season. The Senators host Wooster and Douglas next week, while Damonte visits Douglas on Tuesday and Galena on Friday. Should the teams tie, Damonte would have the advantage because of the win in the second half of the season.
"I told the kids it really didn't matter whether we finished third or fourth," Carson coach Carlos Mendeguia said.
And Mendeguia is right. No matter the outcome of the games next week, the Senators are likely to be at either Hug, Reed or Spanish Springs in the first round. All three are quality opponents. Carson lost close games to Hug and Reed, and beat Spanish Springs.
One thing is certain, the execution needs to be better than it was Friday night.
"It was an outstanding effort by the kids," Mendeguia said. "We had some mental breakdowns in terms of our execution. We have some young kids and they were getting caught up in the moment.
"We had beaten Damonte twice and I knew beating them a third time was going to be tough."
And it was.
Carson trailed by nine, 46-37, with 6:52 left. The Senators, led by Rafe King, stormed back to within three points three different times - 52-49, 54-51 and 56-53. In the first instance Chris Lopez hit a baseline jumper and then King, who led Carson with 22 points, made key shots the other two times.
With the score 56-53, Carson forced a turnover on the ensuing possession. King made a great pass inside to Alan Cohen, who was unable to convert a tough 3-footer in the key. Nick Solano knocked down a free throw to make it 57-53 with 25.4 left.
Carson had a chance to get to within one again, but King was unable to knock down an outside shot with less than 10 seconds to play.
King scored 15 of his 22 in the final two quarters. For the week, he averaged 24.5 contest.
Tight defense by Sean Pinching held King in check in the opening half, but that came at a price. While Pinching did his best to limit King's touches, Matt Nolan had his way with the Damonte defense.
Nolan had 12 of his 20 points in the first quarter, leading the Senators to a 17-11 edge. Nolan mainly scored on kamikaze drives to the basket. He did shoot two free throws and even hit a pull-up jump shot.
"We started the game well," Mendeguia said. "That something we've been stressing, coming in ready to play. Matt and Rafe are going to score points. Matt did a good job getting to the basket."
"We were playing him too tight too far away from the basket," Damonte coach Torrey Sheets said. "He's tough to guard. Pinching did a great job on Rafe (in the first half)."
An 8-2 run by Damonte in the final 3:14 of the first half gave the Mustangs a 29-27 lead at the break.
A trey by Solano and putback by David Crowley gave Damonte a 34-29 lead early in the third quarter, but Carson stormed back with a 9-4 run to close the gap to 37-36 with 2:52 left. King had two buckets and Kyle Denning had a 3-pointer in the surge. Crowley's three-point play made it 40-36 after three.
Crowley made his presence felt in the early fourth with two buckets that got the lad to nine, setting the stage for Carson's rally which would fall a few points short.