It's been less than a week since Carson High's boys basketball season ended on a disappointing note.
The Senators, who hadn't been to a regional title game since 2003, and hadn't won a zone/regional title since 1995, lost a 14-point fourth-quarter lead to Hug en route to a 53-49 loss last Saturday at Morse Burley Gym.
Despite the tough finish, this was a successful season. The Senators compiled a 16-13 record, going 11-8 against Northern Nevada Division I opponents and 5-5 in three different tournaments.
"I still wake up in the middle of the night," Carson coach Carlos Mendeguia said. "It's one of the toughest losses I've been through. A lot of coaches never make it that far in their entire careers, and you never know if you'll get that chance again. It takes a lot of things to go your way.
"Last year we had a lot of new players. We didn't have a point guard (for league play), and Rafe (King) had to try and play a 1 or 2. This year we had a lot of returnees and a lot of returnees with experience. The commitment level was great this season. The kids worked hard in the weightroom and during gym workouts. You do these things and you get rewarded."
Mendeguia and his team may have been the only ones who weren't surprised by the third-place finish in league, and the Cinderella-type run to the playoff final.
"We always thought we could make some noise in the playoffs," Mendeguia said. "Our goal was to finish in the top half of our league. Once we got our full squad of 13 I thought we could make a legitimate run to get to the finals.
"Each week we never had a full squad. The one game against Galena I think we only suited up eight players. Cameron King was penciled in as a starter after summer ball, but injured his hand early in the year. It was a
devastating loss for us and him. It did give other people a chance to step up, though."
With a full squad, Carson opened with a mild road upset of Spanish Springs when Rafe King drained a free throw with three-tenths of a second left. The Senators got outside help that night when the McQueen Lancers upset Douglas, 60-59, meaning Carson would get the Lancers instead of the arch-rival Tigers in the second round. Carson managed to squeeze past McQueen to reach the finals, setting up the finale against Hug.
The season started as the Matt Nolan and Rafe King Show. Little by little other players on the roster stepped up and started to make key contributions. Both Nolan and King averaged 14 points a game during the 26-game regular season
"I think Alan Cohen and Chris Lopez were the X factors in the playoff run," Mendeguia said. "Alan is a good athlete. He hasn't even reached the surface of what he can be as a player. I think if he continues to work hard, he can have a major impact next year. Chris ended up being our second-leading rebounder on the team (behind King) and he played great defense despite giving up (sometimes) five or six inches."
What's ahead for the Carson program?
"I think we have a decent nucleus back," said Mendeguia, who returns seven players from this year's team, including starters Cohen and Kyle Steele. "We're not going to have a superstar who can score 30 a night. It will have to be a team effort (in scoring).
"In Alan and Cameron Price I think we're going to have the best 4-5 combo we've had here in a while. Cameron will have another year under his belt."
Kyle Denning, a solid 3-point shooter, will need to look to score more next season as will Steele, who has a nice 3-point shot and has the ability to get to the basket. Austin Shaffer and Dilyn Rooker, two hard-nosed defenders are also back along with center Andrew Cooper.
And Mendeguia said he could potentially have as many as four sophomores - Asa Carter, Ian Schulz, Jared Rooker and Cody Azevedo - on next year's roster. All four, as freshmen, started on this year's JV team. Eric Jaquez, currently a sophomore, is also a good candidate to make varsity next season.