Assuming Reno will walk away with the Sierra League title, Carson coach Bruce Barnes didn't hesitate in claiming South Tahoe as the second best team. That was Thursday.
On Friday, his team did everything possible to convince their coach they could be the second place team. Ricky Correlli scored 15 points, Ryan Henry 14 and Andy Bohm 13 as Carson held on to beat the Vikings 66-59 in the league opener for both teams at Morse Burley Gymnasium.
"I'm ecstatic about the way we played," Barnes said. "It was important that we played at home where our guys are comfortable. I just thought we came out and executed really well."
So after shooting 9-of-17 from the field in the first quarter, including 4-of-6 from behind the arc, does Barnes now think the Senators can finish in second?
"If we can play like that, then yeah," Barnes said. "But they were missing one of their starters (Dan Tobin), who I think broke his foot, so they were a little short handed. But if we can shoot like that, I think we can (finish in second). There's so much parity on our side."
The Senators led 53-47 after the third quarter and then opened up their biggest lead of the game, 58-49, after a 3-pointer from Bohm and then another basket from the senior guard. But Carson (8-6 overall, 1-0 league) saw South Tahoe score the next eight points and get within one point, 58-57, following a series of poor shots and turnovers.
The Senators, though, were 6-of-8 from the free throw line over the final minute of the game.
"It's all about the seniors," Barnes said. "It was the seniors who made the free throws. It was the seniors who turned the ball over and missed the free throws. It's up to them. I think they're coming around. But it's not like last year, I feel confident bringing everybody off the bench and playing all 12 guys."
Nine different Senators scored in the game but judging from how the first quarter was played, that wasn't surprising.
The two teams were on pace to score 100 points each as Carson led 27-22 after the first. The Vikings, who had only played eight preseason games coming into last night's game, led 8-5 early on after Curtis Johnson scored six points in the first three minutes. Barnes was forced to play a zone defense the entire game to try and limit Johnson's touches. It seemed to frustrate the 6-foot-8 center. Johnson finished with 17 points, but 11 of those points came in the first half.
"We came out with a precise game plan and we executed it," said Henry, who scored seven of his points in the first quarter. "The guys off the bench are doing a good job and really putting the pressure on (the other team). That really helps because it takes the pressure of us."
The Vikings' other main threat, 6-foot-4 guard Niko Klansek, was also kept in check. He had only five points at halftime, when Carson led 35-33, and finished with 11 in the game. The Senators shot 50 percent from the field in the first half.
"We shot the ball extremely well in the first half," Barnes said. "Defensively, our idea was not to give Niko any good looks. We always wanted someone chasing him around and trying to get a hand in his face."
South Tahoe (3-6, 0-1) took a 37-35 lead after Johnson's lay up with 6:56 left in the third. The Vikings never led by more than three points in the second half. Correlli gave the Senators a 53-47 lead after converting a pair of free throws at the end of the quarter.
"I'm pretty excited about that win. I really think second place (in the league) is wide open," Henry said.
South Tahoe point guard Chris Perry fouled out with a minute left in the game and it made a difference. Perry, who finished with nine points, was the only confident ball handler for the Vikings.
With Tobin, South Tahoe's third leading scorer, Barnes expects the rematch in South Lake Tahoe to be a little different.
"I think Tobin would've helped him," Barnes said of the 6-foot-3 guard, who broke his toe and will miss at least the next two weeks. "Their place is a tough place to play."
CARSON FRESHMEN 55, SOUTH TAHOE 41
Cody Barber scored 12 points, Jack Jaquet and Jake Jeffers each had 10 points and Derwin Leigh added nine points for the Carson High boys freshmen basketball team (6-3, 1-0).