Trying to score the basketball against Douglas High is like shooting in a forest of towering trees.
With 6-10 James Herrick and 6-8 Hunter Myers blocking shots and altering others, the Tigers held Carson to a 29 percent effort from the floor en route to a hard fought 44-34 win Friday night before a near sellout crowd at Morse Burley Gym in the regular-season finale.
Douglas will host a playoff game at 7 p.m. Wednesday against McQueen, while Carson will be on the road at Spanish Springs.
"Having two big guys in the middle helps out a lot," Douglas coach Corey Thacker said. "Defense is the key to winning games no matter what the score is.
"Carlos (Mendeguia) does a great job with his team. They execute very well. Win-loss records don't matter in a game like this. I was pleased with our defense in the second half."
Thacker should be. After scoring 15 first-quarter points en route to a 15-13 lead after one quarter, Carson was held to just 19 points the rest of the game.
"Douglas, with their size, force you to shoot a lot of perimeter shots," Mendeguia said. "You are living and dying with the jump shot. We got some good shots, we just didn't make them. I don't think we took bad shots.
"Obviously we came out well in the first quarter, but we scored only two points in the second quarter. It's going to be hard to beat a team like Douglas."
Thanks to two treys by Rafe King (13 points) and a bucket and 3-pointer by Chris Lopez (7 points), Carson energized the crowd by grabbing a 15-13 lead. Douglas got off to a slow start with three turnovers and a miss on its first four possessions.
The Tigers started to take control in the second quarter, especially on defense. Carson went 0-for-7 in the quarter and its only points came on two Lopez foul shots with 1:36 left in the half. Douglas blocked four shots in the first 16 minutes.
Douglas wasn't much better offensively.
Myers scored all seven points in the quarter, lifting the Tigers to a 20-17 at the intermission. One of the baskets was a slam dunk off a backdoor move from the right side. Douglas went 3-for-12 from the floor and didn't score in the final 3:32.
Both teams continued to struggle after the break.
A layup by Myers and a banked 3-pointer by Michael Nolting boosted the Tigers' lead to 26-23 with 6:18 remaining. After four possessions where neither team scored, Matt Nolan (8 points) and Austin Shaffer scored to make it 28-23. The Tigers ended the quarter with Myers (21 points) scoring off on an alley oop pass to make it a seven-point game after three.
The teams essentially traded baskets in the first four minutes of the final quarter which Carson couldn't afford to do.
A layup by Herrick and a putback by Myers off a Herrick miss boosted Douglas' lead to double digits, 38-27, for the first time all night.
Carson wasn't through, however.
Two free throws by King plus a 3-pointer by Alan Cohen sliced Douglas' lead to 40-34 with 1:10 left.
Carson was forced to foul to get the Tigers into the bonus, and Douglas nailed four of six attempts down the stretch.
"It's like I told the kids, this was a meaningless game for both teams," Mendeguia said.
Both teams already knew their playoff destinations, but both coaches know next week's games are more important than Friday's game.