RENO -- When the chips were down, the Carson High School boys basketball team stepped forward on Saturday night. The entire team did, coach Bruce Barnes insisted after the Carson Senators held on defeat Hug 67-59 and take over control of the race for first-place in the Sierra League.
"They're playing real confident right now," Barnes said. "They're playing as a team and it's fun right now."
Team Carson started fast and then turned back a late comeback by the host Hawks in a shoot-out between the league's last two remaining unbeaten teams. The Senators are now at the midway mark of their league schedule and standing alone in first-place with a 6-0 record (16-6 overall), followed by Hug at 4-1 (16-4).
"This was a huge game," junior guard Ricky Correlli said. "It put us in the first-place in the league for now and hopefully we'll do that good in the second half,"
Correlli supplied a spark for the Senators after what seemed like a commanding lead -- 46-25 with 6:53 left in the third quarter -- was erased by the explosive Hawks. Martin Trovella's layup cut Carson's lead to 52-48 with 4:40 remaining in the fourth quarter.
"We were a little tired then, but we had a little more persistence, I guess," Correlli said. "We just kept saying that we had to keep it up, that we wanted this win and we had to work as a team to get it."
Especially against the Hawks, who are a threat to score points in a hurry.
"They're the kind of team, like we are, that can get ahead quickly if we're shooting well," Barnes said. "And then, when our shots stopped going in, they picked up their intensity, their shots start going in and they picked up defensively. Luckily, we were able to stop the bleeding before it got too bad."
Ed Jacquette's basket pushed Carson's lead to six points, then Correlli came up with a steal that led to Adam McKenzie scoring on a follow shot to extend Carson's lead to 56-48. Ryan Buttner took a McKenzie pass and hit a jumper from the right side, then after Trovella hit a 3-pointer for Hug, the Senators answered as Correlli drew a foul and converted both of his free throws to make it 60-53. Moments later, Hug missed an opportunity to score when Correlli drew a charge under the basket.
"Ricky is one of those players who plays 100 miles per hour at all times," Barnes said. "He's kind of a spark plug sometimes ... Ricky and Adam McKenzie, they spark us on the defensive end, and that in turn helps get us going offensively."
Vince Inglima led the Senators statistically as he scored 23 points, pulled down 11 rebounds and dished out four assists. The 6-foot-5 senior scored 14 in the first quarter, eight of which came during a sequence that turned the game around. Inglima was fouled on a drive to the basket, then after two technical fouls were called against the Hug bench, he sank all six free throws. On the ensuing inbounds play, Inglima scored on a layup to give Carson a 14-8 lead.
Buttner finished with 10 points, McKenzie had nine points and Ryan Henry eight. Henry and McKenzie also combined to grab 13 rebounds for the Senators, who enjoyed a 36-31 advantage on the boards.
Barnes felt the Senators' performance was satisfying after their emotional 72-50 win at home against Reno on Friday night.
"We were worried about them being tired coming out," Barnes said. "I am tired, so I know the kids are tired. We talked about that. We talked about the importance of this game, and they didn't let down."
Steve Bryant and Trovella scored 17 points each to lead the Hawks. Bryant scored 15 in the second half.