A combined 9-2 start for the Carson boys and girls basketball teams certainly could be considered encouraging.
But girls coach Paul Croghan and boys coach Bruce Barnes know the gauntlet of a schedule that their teams will face in December should really show what kind of teams they have.
The Carson girls, though, still look strong after a 3-1 start, which included a win over Reed on Tuesday. The Senator boys have also been impressive as they are off to a 6-1 start going into Wednesday's Amador Valley Tournament opener against host Amador Valley in California.
Carson's boys are coming off a win at Reed on Tuesday and last week had an impressive swing in Las Vegas where it went 2-1.
The Senator girls begin play today in their own Carson Invitational, which runs through Saturday. Carson's boys will end their tough December stretch when they host the Capital Classic Dec. 27 through 29.
Carson opens today at 7 p.m. against Fernley. If it wins, the Senators would play the winner between Lowry and Hug at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Hug has looked impressive as well early in the season.
In the other bracket are Armijo of Fairfield, Calif., McQueen, Spring Creek and Marina of Huntington Beach, Calif., which has had a successful run through the tournament in the 1990s.
"We've played pretty well," Croghan said. "It's kind of early to get any kind of feeling."
Carson has had a nice blend of experience and youth, with Meghan Gradert, Megan Mulvaney and Erin Stieber among those providing leadership. In addition, freshman Katie Kotter has played well.
"We thought she would and we figured she had to," said Croghan about Kotter making a strong contribution.
Other freshmen contributing have been Tabitha Adams, Ciarra Christian and Terah Laack. "The young kids are performing well," Croghan said.
After its own tournament, Carson will travel to Las Vegas for four games in the Basic Tournament. After Christmas, the Senators will play four more games in the McQueen Tournament.
Croghan said his young players should be seasoned enough after their December run.
"They can't use the youth excuse any more because they would have had good competition," he said.
Barnes used one word to describe his team's December schedule: "Brutal." Among other teams in the Amador Valley event are California state powers Oakland Tech, St. Francis and Manual Arts. "It's pretty high powered," Barnes said.
Barnes said he didn't take offence that Amador Valley scheduled his team as an opponent in the first round.
"It's just a lot of respect for everyone else," he said. "I probably would have done the same thing. It will be a good game."
Schools coming to the Capital Classic will be Sacramento's John F. Kennedy, Centennial of Las Vegas, Reed, Elko, Wooster, Sparks and Spring Creek. Carson will open with Spring Creek.
Despite having only one player returning with significant varsity experience, Cody Longero, Carson is off to an impressive start.
"They're getting a lesson every time out," said Barnes, who added Longero has provided strong leadership. "He's shown maturity and others are following behind."
Jeff Young has been solid as the point guard and Vinnie Reymus has been one of the team's outside threats. While the scoring and rebounding of Vince Inglima may have surprised some, Barnes said he hasn't been surprised.
"I expected it from him," Barnes said. "We're pretty balanced. We have five guys on the floor at all times that can score. We look for mismatches. We're pretty much a perimeter team."
But Barnes also said Inglima and Longero have provided strong play inside.
An encouraging sign for Carson came at Las Vegas where it handled well an up tempo style of play in winning two of three games.
"I don't mind playing that way," Barnes said. "Our team likes to play that way. It exposes you to a lot of quickness, a different tempo of game, a fast paced game."
With strong play coming from his bench as well, Barnes said his team is about where it should be at this time of the year. "We're about right on track."
While maybe not as strong as in past years when it came to Carson, fans who have watched the Marina girls over the years may have a feeling of deja vu all over again.
Miranda Emde, a strong 3-point shooter, is the younger sister of Martita (Stanford) and Marisa (Vanguard University). All are about 5-7 and Miranda is considered to be a better ball handler of the three.
There's also Sarah McLeod, the younger sister of Chanda McLeod, the tournament's most valuable player in 1998.
Charles Whisnand is the Nevada Appeal sports editor. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.