At the beginning of the season, if you'd told Carson boy's basketball coach Bruce Barnes that Ryan Buttner and Vinnie Reymus would score a combined five points in a game, and the Senators would still win, he'd laugh in your face.
On Thursday night in the semifinals of the 24th annual Capital Classic, Barnes was chuckling all right. Buttner scored two points and Reymus three but Cody Longero scored a career-high 34 points as Carson prevailed, 60-55 over Centennial at Carson High.
The Senators now advance to the Classic championship game tonight at 6 p.m. against Elko. The Indians beat Kennedy (Sacramento, Calif.) 75-60 in the other semifinal on Thursday.
Carson (13-3) will be looking to win its first Classic championship since 1995 and sixth overall against Elko, a team the Senators have already beaten this season, 75-56. This time around, though, Barnes is expecting a much different Elko team. The Indians (12-3) have gone 11-1 since their early season loss to Carson, including a win over St. Francis, one of the Bay area's top teams.
"Elko is playing as well as any team in Northern Nevada right now," Barnes said. "They are a much better team than when we played them in the second game of the season. They got their football players back playing basketball again. It should be a different game than the first one."
Against Centennial (5-10), Longero was nearly impossible to stop as he scored 20 of the Senators 27 points in the first half, as they led 27-25 at half-time. At times, he was the only option because Buttner and Reymus weren't hitting a thing.
"We just shot horribly, nobody could've put the ball in the ocean tonight," Barnes said. "This was our worst shooting performance of the season."
"I told my team at the beginning of the season that as a shooting team, we're going to have off nights and that were are just going to have to find a way."
Against the Bulldogs, Longero was the way.
"They (Buttner and Reymus) didn't have the best of shooting nights," Longero said. "I don't know why but they weren't doubling on me down low, so I had a lot of one-on-one opportunities. Hopefully tonight, all of our guys will be shooting like they can against Elko."
In the third quarter, Carson trailed 36-31 before going on a 10-0 run to take a 41-36 lead. Then early in the fourth quarter, the Senators were down 48-47 before going on a 12-2 run to take a 59-50 lead before John Mosier's 3-pointer made it 59-53. Mosier finished with 18 points and Matt Sterrett had 22 for the Bulldogs.
The Senators converted on all 12 of their free throws in the quarter, which accounted for all but two of their points in the fourth. Longero didn't score in the final two minutes of the game but Barnes is sure that if it wasn't for Longero, Carson wouldn't be playing in tonight's championship game.
"I thought that Centennial played a great game but they just didn't have anybody that could stop Cody," Barnes said. "We've never had to go to him like that before."