Werner Christen couldn’t help but let out a sigh of relief Tuesday night after watching his Douglas High girls basketball team escape with a 41-35 victory against Carson.
“Anytime you get out of there with a win, you’ve done well,” Christen said. “This is the toughest place in the league to play. My hat’s off to Carson; they played a heckuva game tonight.”
Carson coach Nate Tolbert felt it was one heckuva game, period.
“It was just a great game,” Tolbert said. “I was proud to be part of that one.”
The Tigers (14-6 overall, 7-2 Sierra League), nevertheless, had enough to lead start to finish and win on a night when neither side was at full strength at Morse Burley Gymnasium.
Carson (5-4 league) was without the services of starters Savannah Smith and Gina Peacock. Douglas was without Kelly Sonnemann, Mandy Weaver and Abby Ryan due to minor injuries.
“We started out a little flat, a little timid,” Tolbert said. “Douglas came out with a chip on their shoulder. They came ready to play and we came ready to see what was going on.”
The result for Douglas was an early 10-0 lead and then a 19-10 halftime advantage. The Tigers continued their momentum at the outset of the third quarter as Corryne Millett scored on a layup, assisted by Kassidy Freitas, and then buried a 3-pointer from the right corner, assisted by McKenna Kynett to make it 24-10.
Even then, Christen wasn’t ready to sit easy on the bench.
“I thought our start was good, but then they dictated the tempo,” Christen said. “They forced us into a lot of turnovers, unforced turnovers, and that was all them.”
The Senators responded. Madison Preston hit a 3-pointer from the right side, assisted by Natali Salas, Carly Bachmann added a fast-break layup, Salas fed Bachman for a 3-pointer, and then Salas drove for a left-hand layup to cut the Douglas lead to 27-21 with 3:37 left in the third quarter. Then Salas hit a 3-pointer to bring the Senators within 29-28.
“Salas played a tremendous game,” Christen said. “She did a great job of penetrating and finishing, and just making plays.”
Millett scored on a layup and Maddy Lowe hit a jumper as the Tigers extended their lead to 33-28. The Senators came back once again. Salas fed Bachmann for a 3-pointer and Preston added a free throw to make it 33-32 with 4:35 to go. However, the Senators never were able to pull even or take the lead.
In the end, the Tigers put the game away as they shot 4-for-6 from the line in the final minute.
Lowe finished with 10 points to lead a balanced Douglas offensive, while Leonna Mortimer added nine, Kynett eight and Millett seven. Mortimer also grabbed 16 rebounds.
Preston led all scorers with 12 points, including three 3-pointers (the Senators had six as a team). Bachmann and Salas also scored nine each.
“Maddy stepped up and knocked down shots at critical times,” Tolbert said.
The Senators are still adjusting to the loss of Smith, who Tolbert said is expected to miss anywhere from three to six weeks due to a knee injury.
“This team is still trying to find its identity without Savannah,” Tolbert said. “The key thing is, our game was not designed around Savannah, it was designed around the team.”