Wooster High School's mascot may be the Colts, but on Tuesday it was the Carson Senators who brought its horses to Morse Burley Gym.
Four Senators finished with double figures in scoring - Will Holbert (12 points), Caleb Carter (11), Zach Weismann (10) and Rob Valerius (10) - to pace Carson to a 52-43 victory and ensure it of at least a play-in berth.
Depending on if Carson can upset Reno on Friday and what North Valleys does in its last game on that night, Carson will either be a No. 4 seed and play High Desert League No. 1 seed Galena in the first round of the Northern 4A regional playoffs on Tuesday or meet fellow Sierra League foe North Valleys in a play-in game at Damonte Ranch High School.
Carson and North Valleys split their two games this year.
NIAA assistant director Donnie Nelson said Tuesday that an announcement would be made today as to whether the possible play-in game will be played on either Saturday or Monday.
Either way it's all good news for Carson and its coach Bruce Barnes. In spite of having no players over 6-foot-3, graduating seven seniors last year and having only two seniors on his team this year (Weismann and Joe Leatham), Barnes has guided his team to a 7-6 Sierra League record and 14-12 overall.
Carson finished 11-17 last year and missed the playoffs.
"I like my team," Barnes said. "We play extra hard every night. I never fault their effort. We do things to compensate for our size."
Part of what Carson does is play defense and on Senior Night the Senators got off to a quick start and held Wooster to only five first-quarter points.
Carter hit a 3-pointer and later made one of two free throws, Valerius went coast to coast, Weismann had a steal and a layup and Leatham found Markus Adams for a bank shot and a 12-2 lead with 2 minutes, 18 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Carson led 12-5 after one period and later took a 20-7 lead on a Holbert three midway through the second. An 11-3 run by the Colts closed the half with the Senators up, 23-18.
"We did what we had to tonight," Barnes said. "At times we looked good; at times we looked complacent. Sometimes on Senior Night, there's a lot going on during the week. We came out strong, but we couldn't maintain it. They (the Colts) made some runs. It was a game of runs."
Darion Andrews scored a team-high 10 points for the Colts and his layup cut Carson's lead to 23-20, but the Senators answered with a 10-0 run, beginning with a Weismann layup. Paul Cagle converted one of his two free throws, Carter hit another 3-pointer, Valerius had a putback and Carter followed with a layup to make it 33-20, with 4:03 left in the third.
Carter had all five of his third-quarter points in the Carson run.
"Carter's getting a better feel for what he needs to do," Barnes said of the junior. "He's much better defensively now. He's making the transformation from junior varsity to the varsity. He's doing a good job for us right now."
So is Valerius, who had an unofficial six rebounds. After the Colts chopped into Carson's 14-point, fourth-quarter lead (41-27) to close within four at 44-40, Valerius followed a Weismann free throw with an assist to Holbert for a 47-40 lead.
Wooster would get no closer than six the rest of the way as Valerius' layup pushed Carson's lead to 49-41.
"Rob played well tonight," Barnes said of the junior forward. "He took the ball to the basket and rebounded for us. "
After losing, 66-45, to the Huskies in their first meeting, the Senators will look to rebound against Reno on Friday and save themselves a play-in game with North Valleys and the dangerous Archie Kovich.
"It's good to be playing Reno the last game of the regular season," Barnes said. "They're one of the top teams in the North. That game will let us know what we need to do in the playoffs."
Barnes said Reno reminds him of a certain team his players may end up meeting next.
"Reno has basically everything Galena has," Barnes said. "They are comparable to Galena. They have a couple of marquee players and a good surrounding cast."
Barnes said his Senators know what lies ahead and they aren't hurting for motivation.
"One thing about Reno, the guys are looking forward to playing them," Barnes said. "We didn't play well the first time. We can give a better effort than the first time."
The Senators-Huskies game begins at 7 p.m. at Reno High School.