A new season began for the Carson High School girls' basketball team on Wednesday night, and very little time was wasted getting on track.
Alyson Thurman scored 10 points during a first-quarter surge that propelled the Senators to a 71-38 victory at home against Lowry in the opening round play of the Northern 4A zone tournament.
Carson (27-5) jumped out to a 22-8 first-quarter lead and never looked back on its way to a win that clinched a berth in the NIAA/U.S. Bank 4A State Tournament next week in Reno.
Before then, however, the Senators have a 6:10 p.m. date with Galena in the zone semifinals Friday night in Carson's Morse Burley Gymnasium.
The Senators had every intention of making sure they began the postseason on the right foot. Especially four-year varsity starters Thurman and Pam Williams, who scored 24 and 11 points, respectively. Williams also grabbed eight rebounds, had six steals and handed out three assists.
"We just decided we weren't going to lose," senior guard Davina Carter said. "Everybody came out and played strong from the start.
"We almost lost out there when we played before," the third-year varsity veteran added, referring to a Jan. 8 contest in which the Senators needed a second-half comeback to win, 54-51. "Tonight, we wanted to show them how we could play."
The Senators did just that early in the first quarter, when they turned a 2-0 deficit into a 16-4 lead in less than two minutes.
Sophomore point guard Erin Stieber fed Pam Williams for a layup to tie the score 2-2 with 6:27 remaining. Moments later, Stieber turned a backcourt steal into another layup.
Next, Meghan Gradert scored on a putback, and Williams stole the ball off the press and drove for a layup to give the Senators a 9-4 lead. Williams later pulled down an offensive rebound and fed Thurman for a 10-foot jumper from the free-throw stripe.
Thurman banked one off the glass, assisted by Stieber. Finally, Stieber stole the ball and fed Thurman for yet another layup. Thurman was fouled on the play and buried the free throw to complete a three-point play, giving Carson a 16-4 advantage with 4:36 showing on the clock.
The Senators came up with five steals during that span, all as a result of the press.
"The secret to that was Erin (Stieber) being more active. They never had any passes, and a lot of that was because she did a good job of anticipating where they wanted to go," Carson assistant coach Ron Tamori said.
Stieber finished the night with nine points, eight assists, two steals and three rebounds. Her effectiveness was never more evident than early in the third quarter, when she assisted Thurman on one basket, then moments later took the ball on a fast break, drove past two defenders and dished to an open Thurman underneath for a layup that extended Carson's lead to 44-15.
"This was her best game of the year," Tamori said. "They couldn't guard her, and we ended up getting a lot of 2-on-1 and 3-on-1 situations because of that."
Gradert finished with 13 points and eight rebounds (three on the offensive end) for the Senators.
The 71-point total was a season high for Carson, and it came against a Lowry team (15-13) that had only allowed an average of 42.4 points during the regular season.
"It was just a great team effort by everybody," said Carter, who contributed five points.
Lowry was led by Jessica Denison with 12 points while Shani Graf added 11.
"Pam did a good job of defending Denison. And she kind of ruled the boards, because for the most part, they were only getting one shot at the basket each time down the floor, which was a key," Carson coach Paul Croghan said.
Needless to say, this is how any team wants to start the postseason.
"It doesn't matter if you've won 30 games in the regular season, if you don't win tonight, it's all over," Croghan said. "We knew Lowry had a good team, and we wanted to come out from the start and get after them."