To say that the Carson High boys basketball program has been in a drought is an understatement.
It had been 10 years since the Senators made a regional final, and the last regional title came in 1995 when Pete Padgett was the head coach.
The Senators ended one streak with their 53-45 win over McQueen in the Division I semifinals Thursday night at Morse Burley, and have a chance to end another when they host Hug at 6 p.m. Saturday in the championship game.
"It's exciting," said Carson point guard Matt Nolan, who scored nine points in the victory. "It makes us feel good. We're in it to win it."
"This doesn't surprise me," said Rafe King, who had a pivotal three-point play with 45.2 seconds left in the game. "At the beginning of the season the talk was state or bust. We thought we could win league. We struggled a little bit and the talk died down, but after beating Spanish Springs and now McQueen, we're very confident."
Carson punched McQueen in the mouth early, scoring the game's first 12 points, and never lost the lead although the Lancers did cut the deficit to 46-44 with 74 seconds left.
"It was an outstanding effort all the way around," Carson coach Carlos Mendeguia said. "We did a great job on the glass with Alan Cohen, Chris Lopez and Rafe. In my opinion we controlled the boards.
"We stuck to the game plan all night and didn't deviate. I'm proud of the kids and the way they bought into what we were doing."
There were some scary moments down the stretch, though. This one certainly wasn't for the faint of heart.
The Lancers put together a 10-5 run to open the fourth quarter, cutting Carson's lead to 44-40 with 3:25 left. Daeshawn Patterson, who was a force on the offensive glass all night, had a putback and free throw while Bryce Harnack and Kody Eckert had baskets.
The Lancers missed a chance to cut the lead down even further, going 0-for-3 on one possession. After Carson took time-out, Cohen scored on a layup to make it 46-40 with 2:04 left.
Eckert, who finished with 10, bombed in a 3-pointer and was fouled on the play by Kyle Steele, who committed the cardinal sin by fouling a jump shooter. Eckert missed the ensuing foul shot. The Lancers got the offensive rebound and promptly missed two putback attempts.
The Lancers' problems at the foul line continued; after a Nolan missed, Cohen was called for a rebounding foul. Jordan Dansereau missed both shots, and that set up what turned out to be a huge sequence.
Chris Lopez threw a long downcourt pass to Cohen, who found a streaking King going toward the basket. King scored the basket and was fouled. The ensuing free throw made it 49-44 with 45.2 left.
"I didn't really know what happened," King said. "I was just jogging downcourt when I saw Alan (Cohen). I started sprinting and Alan saw me and we got a wide-open layup."
Patterson was fouled on the ensuing possession, but made just one of two, cutting the lead to 49-45 with 34 seconds left. McQueen took a quick foul, and Bruce McIntosh knocked down two free throws to make it a two-possession game with 33.2 remaining.
McQueen missed three shots on its next possession, and then was forced to foul immediately. Lopez made it hurt by knocking down both free throws with 11.9 left.
Foul shooting proved to be key. McQueen went 6-for-14 at the line in the final period, and that's huge in what turned out to be an eight-point game.
"That helped," Mendeguia admitted.
When the game started, this one looked like it was going to be a rout.
Carson led 12-0 with 2:48 left in the first, as King had six of his 19 in that stretch. Lopez had a basket and free throw, and Steele had a bucket.
"We've been trying to emphasize getting off to fast starts," said Mendeguia, whose team started fast in the win over Spanish Springs and the loss to Douglas.
"We all came out fired up," Nolan said. "The adrenaline was really pumping. McQueen did settle down, though."
Carson led 16-5 after one, and stretched that to 22-7 when Cohen hit a free throw, Lopez dropped in a 3-pointer from the left corner and Nolan scored on a layup. McQueen cut the lead to 22-14 with a 7-0 run, keyed by two Harnack baskets. Treys by King and Nolan plus a King jump shot stretched the lead to 32-21 with 51.8 left in the half. Eckert drained two free throws to make it 32-23 at the half.
The game slowed considerably in the third quarter, as each team scored just seven points. That can be traced to McQueen's defense, and Carson's decision to be patient and not just jack the ball up at the first opportunity.
"They went to their 2-3 match-up zone," Mendeguia said. "Teams sometimes get confused whether they (McQueen) are in a man-to-man or zone defense. We wanted to spread it out and see if we could get Patterson away from the basket. I thought we did a good job of attacking the gaps. We wanted to make sure we got good shots."
Mendeguia said that McQueen's defense can sometimes make teams passive, and both King and Nolan were non factors in the third period. King had a basket and Nolan had a free throw.
That set the stage for a wild fourth quarter.carson boys basketball