MINDEN - There may be a line that separates 4A and 3A schools, but if there's a gap, it seems to be narrowing - at least when it comes to the Carson and Dayton high school boys basketball programs.
Dayton, a program that has been to the 3A state tournament finals two of the last three years, put up a good battle through three quarters before neighborhood rival Carson surged to a 67-57 opening-round victory at the fifth annual Carson Valley Classic on Thursday night.
Four players scored in double figures and the Senators used pressure defense in the fourth quarter to break open a back-and-forth contest at Douglas High. Jack Jacquet scored 16 points, while Jake Jeffers added 12, Zach Weismann 11 and Steve Mandoki 10 Carson won its season opener.
In a game that saw 13 lead changes, Carson took control by scoring 13 unanswered points during a four-minute span in the fourth quarter. Jeffers and Weismann combined to score nine of those points as the Senators turned a 48-45 deficit into a 58-48 lead with 2:56 remaining.
Nevertheless, coach Bruce Barnes and the Senators knew they had been in a battle in the first meeting between these two programs in recent memory.
"Rob told me this would be one of Dayton's best teams, and believe me, I'm not going to argue with that," Barnes said afterward. "We told the kids, this isn't the old Dayton. The gap between us is getting smaller. They're growing and they're getting stronger.
"They're going to create some problems for people this year. They created problems for us tonight with the way they were trapping on top. They have good athletes, they get the ball up the floor and (Jordan) Stokes, he's a real good athlete. We were fortunate to get out of here with a win tonight and I think the kids realize that."
Stokes led all scorers with 22 points and had 10 rebounds for Dayton. The 6-foot-3 senior scored 10 in the fourth quarter, though he was whistled for a technical foul for hanging on the rim after turning a steal into a breakaway dunk to start the period.
Dayton (3-1) wasn't looking for any moral victories, according to first-year coach T.W. Cunningham.
"We're not happy just hanging in there," Cunningham said. "We're not where we need to be. This was a different level of opponent tonight, and it showed. We need to be more physical, we didn't handle the pressure well, we had way too many turnovers and we didn't rebound.
"We're excited to be in a big tournament against these types of teams. We want to see where we're at."
The Dust Devils took an 18-12 lead after one quarter. They scored those 18 points on nine layups, five by Josh Wagoner.
The Senators came back in the second quarter and took a 33-32 lead at the intermission on Bryon Wilson's three-pointer from the left wing before time expired.
Dayton took a 48-45 lead with 7:04 remaining when Erik Hopper took a rebound and released a downcourt pass to Stokes for a layup.
Jeffers answered moments later as he drove for a layup, drew a foul in the process, and sank the free throw to tie the score.
That was just the start of Carson's run. Houghton drove inside and banked a shot off the glass to give the Senators a 50-48 lead. Weismann converted a steal into a layup. Houghton hustled to recover a rebound on the defensive end and passed the ball downcourt to Weismann for another layup. Then Jacquet fed an inside to Jeffers for a layup and Carson suddenly enjoyed a 56-48 lead.
"It took a while, but once we figured out how to attack their trapping, we were able to put together a little spurt," Barnes said.
Weismann played well in place of Kevin Brush, who is currently sidelined due to a bout with mumps.
"We were missing Kevin, and that hurt because he's one of our leaders," Barnes said. "Because of that, we had to put some guys in roles that are new to them, and I thought they gave a real good effort."
Wagoner finished with 10 points and Jacob Jones nine points for Dayton.
Carson plays Laguna Creek in the tournament semifinals tonight at 6 p.m. and Dayton faces Reed at 3.
LAGUNA CREEK 80, REED 67
Laguna Creek (Elk Grove, Calif.), the defending CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I champion, scored 23 points in the fourth quarter to pull away from Reed.
Mark Clark, who had been battling illness all day, showed no effects on the court as he scored 26 points and dished out three assists to lead Laguna Creek. Clark buried a three-pointer that gave the Cardinals a 65-56 lead with 6:03 remaining.
Jason Keyes also scored 20 points, 10 in the first quarter and 10 in the fourth, and Shawn Underwood contributed 15 points and seven assists.
"He (Underwood) was our player of the game," coach Ron Stephens said. "He made some very, very big defensive plays; he drew some charges and there was one 3-on-1 situation where he broke it up and got a steal."
Brad Peterson led Reed with 26 points, 15 in the second half.
FAITH LUTHERAN 66, SPANISH SPRINGS 55
Tyler Norman scored 26 points to lead Faith Lutheran, which pulled away with a 23-18 run in the fourth quarter. Sophomore Connor Maloney added 16 points and Stephen McCall 11.
Doug Williams led Spanish Springs with 18 points.
n Contact Dave Price at email@example.com or call 881-1220.
Carson Valley Classic
Carson 67, Dayton 57
Dayton 18 14 12 13 - 57
Carson 12 21 9 25 - 67
Dayton (3-1): Stokes 9 2-3 22, Wood 2 1-2 5, Aaker 1 1-2 3, Castro 2 2-2 6, Wagoner 5 0-0 10, Jones 1 7-8 9, Hopper 0 2-2 2, Totals 20 15-19 57.
Carson (1-0): Rutledge 1 0-1 3, Valerius 0 0-2 0, Houghton 4 1-4 9, Weismann 5 0-0 11, Jacquet 6 4-7 16, Wilson 2 0-0 5, Greenlee 0 1-2 1, Leatham 0 0-2 0, Mandoki 5 0-0 10, Jeffers 5 2-3 12, Totals 28 8-21 67.
Three-point goals: Dayton 2 (Stokes 2); Carson 3 (Rutledge 1, Weismann 1, Wilson 1). Team fouls: Dayton 21, Carson 17. Fouled out: (Dayton) Castro, Wood. Technical foul: Stokes.