RENO — If the Carson Senators don’t realize how valuable Savannah Smith is to their team, they are now going to find out.
Smith, who showed up to Friday’s game with a black eye from an accidental elbow earlier this week at practice, suffered a knee injury earlier in the second quarter with Carson ahead by two baskets. Carson trainer Adam Hunsacker said that he would know more on Monday how severe the injury is. Smith is doubtful for next week’s games against Wooster and North Valleys.
Without Smith the Senators’ offense stumbled at times, and thanks to a 20-point effort by Morgan Waller, Damonte Ranch carved out a 48-43 win in a Sierra League matchup.
Carson dropped to 7-8 overall and 2-3 in league. Damonte is now 10-3.
“It’s hard to say how long she’ll be out,” Carson coach Nate Tolbert said. “A lot of the stuff we run goes through her. We’ve practiced without her before.
“We started out lethargic and we were still ahead most of the way. We didn’t do a good job of finishing (around the basket). We didn’t execute very well offensively.”
Damonte coach Ed Shepard said Smith’s absence made his team’s job a little easier.
“Without a doubt, she (Smith) is one of the premier point guards in the league, and that includes both sides (Sierra and High Desert). You hate to win when one of the other team’s best players is out.
“I told the girls that this wasn’t a pretty win. We have to learn how to battle and not give up, and tonight we did that. We didn’t give up. If we’re going to move up and be a top three team, we have to win games like this. This was a big win for us.”
This was a close game throughout. Carson’s biggest lead was nine, 31-22, with 3:02 left in the third. Damonte’s biggest lead was 48-41 with 30 seconds left in the contest.
Damonte Ranch used a 20-6 run, bridging the final 2-minutes 10 seconds of the third quarter and the first five minutes of the fourth quarter to wipe out a nine-point deficit and take a 42-37 lead with 2:54 left in the contest.
Taylor Nuttall started the Mustangs’ surge with four straight free throws and a nice drive to the basket that cut the CHS lead to 31-28 with 11.1 left in the third. After Michelle Perry scored on a drive to the hoop, Waller scored the final basket of the third quarter to make it 33-30.
Natali Salas, the only CHS player to reach double figures (14 points), scored on a reverse layup 46 seconds into the final period to give Carson a 35-30 lead.
The next four-plus minutes was an ugly span for the Senators, who were victims of a 12-2 run by the Mustangs. Waller was the main benefactor of leaky interior defense by CHS, scoring three of her five fourth-quarter baskets. Carson was 1-for-7 and turned the ball over twice in that stretch.
Perry’s basket cut the Damonte lead to 42-39 with 2:36 left. A Delaney Hanson free throw, two more buckets by Waller and a free throw by Nuttall made it 48-41. Salas sank a meaningless hoop with 3.4 remaining.
“We got stuck on 37 for a while,” Tolbert said.
Carson had an 11-4 run to end the first quarter, and used two different 6-0 runs for a 22-18 lead at the half. The only field goal Carson scored in an 11-point second quarter was a 3-pointer by Smith. The other eight points came from the foul line. Carson went 6-for-28 from the floor in the opening 16 minutes. Damonte also struggled offensively, turning the ball over 10 times and going 7-for-32 from the field. It made for an ugly 16 minutes of basketball.
Waller dominated the final 16 minutes, scoring 14 of her 20 in that span. Three of the baskets were on putbacks, as Carson did a sub-par job of blocking out inside.
Smith did finish with six before the injury, and that total was matched by both Perry and Peacock. Lindy Lehman contributed five points.