A new era in Carson High School girls basketball has been launched.
Gone are twin tower threats Alyson Thurman and Pam Williams, who graduated in June after leading the Senators to state tournament berths in three of four years. They've now been replaced by a smaller and quicker team that revolves in part around twin roadrunners, sophomore Talia Joyce and junior Erin Stieber, who led Carson to a 58-29 non-league victory at home against Reed on Tuesday night.
Joyce and Stieber combined to score 21 points and lead a scrappy defense that limited the visiting Raiders to 8-for-43 shooting from the field during the contest at Morse Burley Gymnasium. Both played solid all-around games, according to coach Paul Croghan.
"I thought Talia played a great game; she's under control, she knows basketball very well and she's kind of our steadying influence on the court," Croghan said after watching the Senators improve their season record to 3-1. "Erin is fast, too fast sometimes, and she made some great passes and had some good moves to the basket."
Joyce scored a game-high 14 points, six of which came during a two-minute span in the first quarter when the Senators jumped out to a 13-3 lead. Freshman Katie Kotter added nine points, Terah Laack had eight and Tabitha Adams and Stieber contributed seven each. A total of nine players scored for the new-look Senators.
"This is a totally different team after four years of Pam and Alyson," Croghan said. "We knew they were our go-to guys and I've reminded these girls in practice a few times that somebody else is going to have to get those 10 rebounds get those 18 points. I think the balance is good, too, because we don't want to be one-dimensional.
"When we put a smaller lineup in, they're very quick, they play pretty good defense and get the ball up the floor in a hurry."
That was evident when Carson broke the game open with an 8-0 run over the final 1:15 before halftime. It started when Stieber stole the ball, drove down the floor and used a spin move in the key to go in for a layup. Terah Laack scored on a fast break layup moments later, Kotter went inside for another layup and then Stieber turned another steal off the press into a layup before the buzzer to give the Senators a 25-10 cushion at the intermission.
Defense was a key part of Carson's game plan and the pressure paid off because Reed (1-7) only shot 3-for-25 from the field in the first half.
"We've really been working on our defense lately. We knew they have good 3-point shooters so we had to pressure them," said Stieber, who was the Sierra League soccer Offensive Player of the Year as a midfielder for the Senators this past fall. "That's our game plan, pressure on defense, and I think it will work well this year."
Croghan echoed the emphasis on defense.
"We felt going in we were going to have to with the team we had," he said. "We need to have two or three different types of presses, we need to play straight man-to-man and change things around to cause the teams we play some problems. We're still a long ways from where we want to be, too."
The Senators return to action Thursday with a 7 p.m. contest against Fernley in the first round of the 20th annual Carson Invitational. Marina High from Huntington Beach, Calif., Armijo from Fairfield, Calif., Hug, Lowry, McQueen and Spring Creek round out the eight-team field for the tournament, which ends on Saturday.