There should be no secrets tonight when Carson High School hosts Lowry in an opening-round Northern 4A zone girls basketball tournament contest between familiar opponents.
Just like last year, when these two teams met in the opening round at Morse Burley Gymnasium, Carson (26-5) comes in as the second-place representative from Division II and Lowry (15-12) as the No. 3 seed from Division I. Even the starting lineups will be similar, because both teams fielded predominantly junior lineups in last year's zone meeting, which Carson won by a 55-47 score.
Just don't automatically assume the final outcome be the same at 7 p.m. tonight when the Senators and Buckaroos collide. Carson coach Paul Croghan is quick to point out that this is a brand new ballgame in a brand new season.
The loser packs up for the season. The winner moves on to the zone semifinals Friday night in Carson City and also receives an invitation to the NIAA/U.S. Bank 4A State Tournament from Feb. 23-25 in Reno.
"This is a new season, at least that's the way we're looking at it," Croghan said. "Everybody is back to 0-0 now, so they need to be focused and ready to go. We've got to take it one game at a time starting with Lowry."
Lowry rebounded after starting its Division I season with four straight losses and qualified as the third-place seed from Division I. The Buckaroos prevailed over Elko and Reed out of a third-place tiebreaker.
"We'll need our A-game, there's no doubt about it," said Croghan, whose Senators only beat Lowry by a 54-51 score on Jan. 8 in Winnemucca. "They're a good ballclub. They have quality players, they can shoot the 3, they're scrappy and they get after you. If they see you backing down, you'll be in trouble."
The Buckaroos are led by a nucleus of third-year varsity seniors that includes 5-10 guard/forward Jessica Denison, 5-8 guard Leslie Case, 5-5 guard Erin Schwartz, 5-11 senior forward/center Shani Graf, 5-11 senior forward/center Stephanie Dolphin and 5-8 senior guard Jackie Schrempp. Denison was a second-team all-conference selection last season.
"Ron (Tamori, assistant coach) and I figured coming into this year they would be one of the top teams in that division," Croghan said. "Last year they came down here for the first-round game so I'm sure they'll be looking for some redemption."
Carson won last year's zone opener behind 20 points from Pam Williams, 17 from Kristina Yeskie and 12 from Alyson Thurman, not to mention defensive pressure that limited the Buckaroos to 19-for-69 (27 percent) shooting from the field.
"We need to take care of the ball, and we need to play good defense," Croghan said. "We'll need to be hitting on all cylinders. We'll need Pam and Alyson (Thurman) to have their usual solid games, and the supporting cast will have to be doing their thing well."
Williams, a 5-foot-11 center, and Thurman, a 6-foot forward, are four-year varsity starters who draw considerable attention from any opponent they play. A good example came on Jan. 11, when Douglas employed a triangle-and-two defense dedicated to clamping down on Carson's dynamic duo.
However, senior guard Davina Carter and junior forward Meghan Gradert eased the pressure by scoring 13 and 10 points, respectively, to help the Senators post a 60-42 triumph in Minden. They combined to score 16 points in the first quarter - Carter knocked down a pair of 3-pointers - as Carson took a 22-7 lead and never looked back.
"Davina and Meghan stepped up big time," Croghan reflected. "Those are the types of contributions we need."
In other first-round games tonight, four-time defending state champion McQueen is at home against Fallon, Division II champ Reno hosts Elko and Division I champ Galena hosts Wooster. The semifinals and finals will be played Friday and Saturday at Carson.
"I'm looking forward to it," Croghan said. "I'm hoping we're in it for the duration, but right now our focus is on Lowry."
Projected Carson starting lineup
F Alyson Thurman, 6-0 senior
F Meghan Gradert, 5-11 junior
C Pam Williams, 5-11, senior
G Davina Carter, 5-8, senior
G Erin Stieber, 5-7, sophomore