SPARKS - On the verge of being shot right out of the gym early in the third quarter, the Carson High boys basketball team rallied back to make things interesting in its 60-51 loss against El Camino (Sacramento) during the final day of the Nugget Rail City Classic on Friday.
The Senators cut a 15-point deficit to seven thanks to a gutsy second half effort in their final game of the 16-team tournament at Reed High's Paul Kautz Gymnasium. Even though the loss left Carson at 3-6 for the season, the second half comeback left coach Bruce Barnes feeling encouraged.
"The bright spot tonight was that the kids worked so hard," Barnes said. "They understand what they need to work on, and that's important because our goal right now is to try and get ready for January (to start league)."
In this game, the Senators were hindered by 17 turnovers and subpar shooting from the field, especially missed shots from the inside.
"We lost because of turnovers and because we missed way too many shots from inside the paint," Barnes said. "Like I told the guys, it was a shame because they fought hard to get the ball inside, and then they weren't able to convert."
On the other hand, El Camino (6-3) seemed to convert shots from everywhere on the court, especially on its way to a 34-22 halftime lead. The Eagles hit eight shots from beyond the three-point arc - six in the first half, four by junior guard Eli Lathrop.
"Their percentage from 20 feet was pretty high and ours from five feet was pretty low," Barnes said with a chuckle. "That No. 22 (Lathrop) had a couple of open looks, but there were a couple of times where we were on him pretty good. He had five threes the other night, so it wasn't as if he snuck up on us."
El Camino extended its lead to 39-24 with 6:15 left in the third quarter before Carson began its comeback. Brian Welch sank a free throw, assisted on a Kyle Bacon layup, and then laid a shot off the glass as the Senators scored five unanswered points to cut the gap to 41-34. They missed two chances to pull within five on back-to-back turnovers before Welch pulled up and hit another short jumper to make it 43-36 at the end of three quarters.
Barnes credited defensive intensity for the comeback.
"We came out of our zone and picked up man-to-man, and that seemed to get the tempo going in our favor," he said. "We've been playing a lot of zone to help us prepare for some of the matchups we're going to face in league, but I was pleased with our defensive intensity in the second half, so we may have to start looking at playing more man."
The Senators remained within striking distance early in the fourth quarter, aided by two putbacks from senior guard Tilor Smith coming off the bench. On the second of those putbacks, the 5-foot-11 senior showed the ability that made him one of Nevada's top long jumpers last track season as he came from the wing and went over an opposing player to grab the offensive rebound.
"Tilor came in and gave us some energy," Barnes said of Smith, who had an assist and steal to go with his four points in the final period. "He's the most athletic guy we have on this team, he just hasn't played much basketball before this, so it's going to be a matter of converting his raw talent into experience."
Adam Houghton scored 10 points to lead a balanced Carson offense. Brice Crook and Welch finished with nine each to lead the Senators, who had 10 players score. The Senators shot 12-for-14 from the free throw line.
Sonny Gallegos and Lathrop led El Camino with 12 points each. Gallegos, a 5-9 senior who earned all-league honors as a running back this fall, had a key three-pointer and eight points overall in the final 2:39.
The Senators, who were 1-2 in the Nugget Rail City Classic, return to action Tuesday at their own Capitol Classic, starting with a 7:30 p.m. game against Damonte Ranch.
Contact Dave Price at email@example.com or call 881-1220.