RENO - A Sierra League co-championship and the top seed in the upcoming regional playoffs were there for the taking, and somehow they eluded the grasp of the Carson High girls basketball team.
The visiting Senators blew an eight-point lead in the final 1 minute 35 seconds of regulation, and went on to lose a 44-41 overtime decision to Reno Friday night.
Carson finished 12-2 in league, its only two losses coming at the hands of the Huskies, who went undefeated in league play. The good news is that Carson will host a playoff game Tuesday night.
Despite the disappointing finish, Carson coach Ric Garcia said he was proud of his young squad.
"I'm proud of the girls," Garcia said. "They never quit. It was our most complete game of the year."
Carson, which had a nine-point lead at one point in the fourth quarter, still led 37-33 with 50.6 seconds left in regulation after two free throws by Brandi Vega, who was saddled with foul problems throughout the game and finished with just six points.
Samantha Puzey scored on a lay-up with 42.4 remaining to close the gap to 37-35. Stephanie Rovetti stole the ball from Vega on the next possession, and then Carson's Kaitlin Burroughs was whistled for a foul on Rashanda McAlister, who dropped in one of two shots to make it 37-36. Raimy Novacek followed in a teammate's miss to give the Huskies a 38-37 lead.
With 24.6 left, Megan Kilty had a chance to give Carson a lead, but she only managed to tie the game at 38. Reno had the last shot in regulation, but Angela Ceccarelli's shot was off the mark.
Novacek and Danielle Peacon traded baskets in the first half-minute of overtime to make it 40-all. Peacon, who scored 14 points, all in the final two periods and overtime, had a chance to put Carson ahead but she missed both free throws with 3:16 left. Novacek gave Reno the lead at 42-40 on a putback. Peacon sliced the lead to 42-41 with a single free throw, but a free throw by Ceccarelli made it 43-41 with 19 seconds left.
Carson had another chance to go ahead, but misfired, and then Britton Murdock sealed the game with a free throw with 1 second left.
"Give credit to Reno," Garcia said. "They hit some big 3-point shots. We had some success with the zone in the overtime. I thought maybe we should have gone to it in regulation. We started getting stretched defensively. The zone would have kept us tighter."
Garcia made a mistake of sorts when he allowed Vega to stay in the game after she picked up her second foul with 3:45 left in the first quarter. She picked up her third about two minutes later, sidelining her the rest of the half.
"I had my mind on something else," Garcia said. "I didn't know she had three until I took her out." Garcia thought he was taking her out with two fouls.
Thanks to the play of Anna Macquarie, the Senators managed to stay close, 12-11 at the half. She scored seven of the Senators' first-half points.
Gina Bianchi gave Carson its first lead of the game, 22-20, when she dropped in a 3-pointer with 37.1 left in the third quarter.
The Senators went on to score nine of the game's next 11 points to take a 31-22 lead with 5 minutes left in the game.
Peacon netted two free throws and Kilty, who had a rough night handling the ball, banked in a short shot to make it 26-20. Puzey cut the lead to 26-22, but a lay-up and free throw by Peacon and a lay-up by Kilty stretched the Carson lead to nine.
That's when things got ugly for the Senators, who made several key turnovers down the stretch.
"I think we defended well against them," Reno coach Shane Foster said. "I thought Carson defended very well. The other key is we were finally able to hit a jump shot. Angela hit a three and Murdock hit a three."
JV: RENO 49 CHS 38
The Huskies finished the season unbeaten at 14-0 with a double-digit win over the Senators.
Tiffany O'Day, Karli Dodge and Emily Field scored six points apiece to lead Carson.