SPARKS — When you talk to basketball coaches in Northern Nevada, most if not all, praise Carson High’s offensive execution.
On Wednesday night, the Senators looked like they had never seen a 1-2-2 press, and they paid the price.
Carson, 14-9, turned the ball over 22 times, and Spanish Springs converted those mistakes into 23 points en route to a 50-40 win in a first-round Division I playoff game.
“You always want to give credit to the defense,” Carson coach Carlos Mendeguia said, “They did the same thing two weeks ago. For some reason we lost it (the ability to execute). The game was too big for some of our guys. You turn the ball over 22 times in a playoff game, you have no chance to win. It got to a point where we couldn’t stop the bleeding. We were rotating guys in and out to see who could break the press. I think they played a lot more physical; got more into us.
“We knew it was going to be tough. They are a senior laden team. When you have senior leadership, you can bounce back from adversity like they did early. It’s back to the drawing board for us.”
Even Spanish Springs coach Kyle Penney noticed that the pressure forced Carson into a lot of mistakes and forced the Senators into playing faster than they wanted.
“Part of the reason why you pressure is to try to get teams to play faster and force turnovers,” Penney said. “We were on the right side tonight.
“We mixed some defenses up. We were trying to keep the guessing whether it was man-to-man or trap. We did a great job mixing things up.”
The turning point of the game came in the first 3 1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter. Spanish Springs, which led 33-32 after three periods, went on an 8-0 run to take a commanding 41-32 lead with 4:30 remaining.
Carson turned the ball over on its first possession of the period, and Hunter Pinto converted it into a layup. Carson turned the ball over on its next possession, and Dupree Kness scored in the key to make it 37-32. After the teams traded missed shots on their next possessions, Kness converted yet another Carson mistake into two points. Carson’s fifth mistake of the period led to a Kenny Meyer drive which capped the 8-0 run.
Kyle Steele (13 points) stopped the bleeding momentarily with a bucket, but a 7-0 Spanish Springs run made it 48-34 with 2:05 left. Turn out the lights, this party was over.
Meyer again proved to be too much to handle despite the efforts of Austin Shaffer, Asa Carter and Dilyn Rooker, all of whom squared off against the Cougars’ sharpshooter. Meyer finished with 23 this time, six less than last game.
“You are never going to completely stop a guy like Meyer,” Mendeguia said. “He’s a great player, good shooter and shoots 80 percent from the line. You just hope to contain him.”
While Spanish Springs dominated the last quarter, it was the Senators who sizzled at the outset.
Thanks to two buckets by Cameron Price, a 3-pointer by Steele and a dunk by Alan Cohen (10 points) off a steal, the Senators led 9-2 in the first 3:54 of the game.
“We talked about coming out strong and setting the tempo,” Mendeguia said. “We did that early. They have a lot of seniors, and when you have a lot of seniors that can carry you through rough spots and that showed in the fourth quarter.”
A 10-4 run by the Cougars in the final 2:45 of the half cut Carson’s lead to 21-20 at the break.
“It was the first playoff game (for some guys) and you’re going to have nerves on both sides,” Penney said.
Spanish Springs used an 11-2 run over a four-minute stretch of the third quarter to gain a 31-25 lead, as Meyer had six of those points. Carson ended the quarter with a 7-2 run of its own to make it 33-32 after three, Price, who was quiet most of the night, made three free throws while Shaffer and Carter added baskets.
That set the stage for the fourth quarter when Carson lost the ball several times in a row and control of the game.
It was strange because Carson shot better than 50 percent from the floor (16-for-29), but the lost possessions (turnovers) proved too much to overcome.
NOTES: Carson played without senior Kyle Denning, who was removed from the team after missing a practice ... The win was Spanish Springs’ second in first-round play and the first at home ... Kness finished with 11 points...Spanish Springs turned the ball over 13 times, only five in the second half.