Hopefully the Carson Senators didn't have any thoughts of Reno overlooking them when the two teams meet today at 5 p.m. at Reno High.
The Huskies lost to Hug 63-59 Friday night and suddenly the preseason favorite to win the Sierra League and the Northern 4A needs a win today against the Senators just to stay in the race for first.
Preseason predictions, though, are rarely an exact science. Bruce Barnes and the Senators are one shining example.
Carson, which was thought to be a fringe playoff team, has started off the league season 3-1, despite returning only starter from last year's league championship team. Barnes had to replace Vince Inglima, the player of the year in the Sierra League, and two all conference players in Ryan Buttner and Adam McKenzie. Those three players accounted for over 80 percent of the Senators' scoring last season.
"I expect all my teams to play hard all the time," Barnes said. "You can overcome a lot when you do that."
But while Carson's impressive start may have surprised some, its first three league victories did come against teams with a combined 2-9 league record. If the Senators are to convince the rest of the league they are for real, a win or even a close loss to the Huskies will be needed. If that doesn't happen, Carson has another chance on Tuesday against Hug at Morse Burley Gymnasium.
The Hawks, who are off to a 10-3 overall and 3-0 league start, were one of only two Northern 4A teams to qualify for last year's state tournament. Now with their win over the Huskies, they look capable of duplicating that feat.
"If we can win one out of the next two, we'll be just fine in league," Barnes said. "It's going to be a tough task."
The Huskies believed they had a decent chance at winning state, mostly because of 6-foot-11 center and Kansas signee David Padgett. With a loss against the Senators, though, they could finish the day in fourth place in the Sierra League.
"Obviously, David is going to get his points," Barnes said of Padgett, who averages 25.2 ppg and 13.6 rpg. "No team in the league has anybody who can stop David and so we'll try to get help on him and try to make other people beat us. I think that's pretty much what everybody is trying to do, he's just good enough to carry them by himself sometimes."
As much as Padgett scores, it's on defense where he makes his biggest presence. The Huskies (8-5, 2-1) held their first two league opponents to a combined 55 points because Padgett was looming in the middle. But Hug proved its possible to put points on the board against him.
"I think what they're able to do is put an extreme amount of pressure on the perimeter because they have the luxury of having David in the middle if anybody gets beat," Barnes said. "Offensively, we've been able to score, it's just defensively, stopping them is what concerns me."
If Carson, which won both meetings last season between the two teams, shoots the ball well, it has a chance to keep it close. If it doesn't, like on Friday night against Wooster, it could get ugly.
The Senators, though, have had success at shutting down big players this season with an effective zone defense. They lost in overtime to Las Vegas' Foothill High back in December. Carson frustrated the Falcons, who had two players over 6-foot-4, so much that they went into a stall in the fourth quarter because they refused to shoot the ball from the perimeter. And then in the league opener on Jan. 3 against South Tahoe, Carson limited the Vikings' 6-foot-8 post Curtis Johnson touches and his point total (17).
"I think you can't play them (Johnson and Padgett) the same way because they're a little different players," Barnes said. "Plus, Reno has better perimeter players than South Tahoe does."
Dave Price contributed to this story.