Carlos Mendeguia figured out a way to combat the high admission prices the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association charges for student tickets, and possibly put a few more people in the seats for tonight's regional championship game against Hug.
The Carson coach donated $210 out of his own pocket, so the first 70 Carson students in line at tonight's game (6 p.m. start), will only have to pay $2 instead of $5.
"I wanted to reach the fans," Mendeguia said Friday afternoon before his team's final workout. "It's way to entice kids to show up for the game. Kids don't have to pay to attend games during the season. I don't know where they (the NIAA) get the number ($5) or what they use the money for. I don't know that some kids can afford that unless they are getting money from their parents, and sometimes that isn't possible. Kids here come from different backgrounds.
"When Bruce (Barnes) was here, we had free pizza (for the fans). Derek Alister from South Tahoe did it. He would have pizza parties before the game. When kids come out and see a full rooting section, it can give a team extra energy."
Mendeguia stopped short of saying it would mean the difference between winning and losing, but a full house tonight certainly wouldn't hurt.
The Senators, who have won two games in the three days earlier this week, made the regional finals for the first time since 2003. The Senators last won a regional title in 1995. Earlier this season, Carson lost a home thriller, 50-47, to the Hawks.
Senior forward Chris Lopez expects another tough game tonight, and he said that a big crowd can only help the team.
"I think we match up a little better with Hug than we do with Galena," Lopez said. "Hug has quickness, but I think our guards are pretty fast. We're definitely capable of beating Hug.
"Oh yeah, it's definitely an advantage to playing here. In my classes I've been talking it up, trying to get people to go to the game. It's exciting to be a part of it. You're only in high school once."
Hug is the defending regional champ, and the Hawks returned most of their players from last year's team, including 6-7 center Sam Williams, who averages more than 20 points a game. Williams got into early foul trouble against Carson and was a non factor. Jawon Bennett averages double digits and point guard Rian Narra is a capable floor general who can drive to the basket and hit a 3-pointer.
"Hug and Galena presented different problems," Mendeguia said. "Galena had size, while Hug has great size and they are very athletic. They relay on their athleticism. If they miss a shot, they are going to have three guys crashing the boards.
"I think we're playing with a lot of confidence in general. We beat a good Spanish Springs team on the road, and then beat a good McQueen team here the other night. Our kids are excited. We're going to approach it like any game. I would expect the kids to be a little nervous."
Hug coach Keith Crawford expects that his team will be in for a tough game.
"The first thing I'll tell you is that it's tough to play at Carson," Crawford said after the Hawks' semifinal win over Galena. "We'll be prepared to play Carson. It's a tough place to play a league game let alone a zone championship game. I know Carson will be ready to play."
Crawford said a key is keeping Williams on the floor, and he needs players like Bennett and Narra.
"Everybody knows about Sam," Crawford said. "Whoever gets the ball has the green light to score. We have to help Sam, and we've been doing that the last couple of games."