SOUTH TAHOE - One needed only a quick glance at Carson forward Zach Weismann to get an idea of what a hard-fought game his Senators had just played with the South Tahoe Vikings.
With a bloody nose and a swollen temple, Weismann looked like he had been in the boxing ring instead of on the basketball court.
But for Weismann and the Senators it was all in a day's work and they followed up their big victory over North Valleys with a 54-48 win over South Tahoe.
With the victory Carson improved to 4-2 in the Sierra League and 11-8 overall and, for the time being, gained a foothold on fourth place.
South Tahoe fell to 2-4, 8-9.
"I thought we played pretty good," said Senators coach Bruce Barnes. "Our halfcourt defense was effective down the stretch. We got stops when we needed to."
Carson also got some baskets when it needed to and the 6-foot-2 Weismann poured in a team-high 17 points. Junior guard Caleb Carter added 14 and three players - Rob Valerius, Will Holbert and Paul Cagle - each chipped in seven.
South Tahoe got a stellar performance from K.J. Allister, who had a game-high 25 points, including six 3-pointers two of them in the fourth quarter, when the Vikings chopped Carson's nine-point lead to three, with 1 minute, 58 seconds remaining in the game.
Allister nailed a 30-foot three to cut the lead to 49-46.
Valerius stopped the Vikings' 6-0 run with a steal and drew a foul. Although Valerius missed both free throws, Holbert nabbed the rebound and passed to Weismann for the bucket.
South Tahoe missed three shots and fouled Holbert, who hit one of his free throws to give Carson a 52-46 lead and iced the game.
"I hate playing here," said Valerius, who unofficially had five rebounds in the second half alone and came up big on defense. "It's the worst place to play. With the air, the court seems like a mile long. We didn't play our best. We fought hard to win."
Valerius' efforts weren't lost on Barnes.
"I thought it was one of Rob's best rebounding games," Barnes said. "He works awfully hard in the game. I told him we need double digits in rebounds. We don't have a 6-7 guy, so we have to make sure our 6-2 guy explodes."
The 17-year-old Valerius - who is listed as 6-foot-3 - has been doing a lot of the work that doesn't always show up on the scoresheet, battling for boards, grabbing steals and dishing off the ball to open teammates.
"My shots weren't falling, so I had to try to rebound and try to do something to help the team," said Valerius, who is also a pitcher and first baseman for the Carson baseball team. "I think Will is stepping up - the core starting five are playing well together. Cagle and David (Eller) are stepping up too."
As is Carter, who had a varsity-high 20 points against North Valleys on Friday and was 6-for-8 from the foul line against the Vikings and added a 3-pointer in the second quarter to kick-start a 14-2 Carson run.
"Carter is a good offensive player and he's getting better defensively," Barnes said. "He understands what we need from him. We know he can shoot the ball. He needs to add to the rest of his game too."
"He's getting a lot of confidence that he didn't have in the beginning of the season," Weismann said of Carter. "It's just in his head. He's more confident."
Carter had 12 first-half points - including nine in the second quarter - and Weismann had 11 (nine in the second) and the Senators shook off a slow start to take a 35-26 lead into the locker room.
"(The Vikings) were trapping corners - they were trapping everywhere," Barnes said of South Tahoe's first-half defense. "To be honest, we didn't attack that very well. The more turnovers we had, the more confident they became. We got on our heels a little bit." Allister had 11 points in second quarter, including three 3-pointers. Carson held him to two points in the third before he broke out again in the fourth.
"It was a team effort. K.J. got it going from the three," Barnes said. "They set double picks to get him open. He's improved. I mean he is the most improved player in our league. He worked hard over the summer and bulked up to become their go-to guy."
Weismann, who also had 17 points against North Valleys, looked to be recovered from an illness that caused him to miss the better part of three games. He not only sliced through for layups but was accurate from the perimeter as well.
"I don't know, the shots are falling down," Weismann said. "It's coming together for me. It's nice. A lot of guys are penetrating and kicking out. It creates opportunities to drive and get good shots. Will and I play really well together - and Matt and Rob. Pretty much everyone."
Carson will have its work cut out for it next week, facing Reno, Douglas and Hug, all of which are ahead of the Senators in league play.
"It will be absolutely the toughest week we've had that I can remember," Barnes said. "We play the top three teams in our league in one week. That's asking a lot. We'll break down film of Reno tonight. After that, we'll look at the next game. We're not good enough to overlook anybody."
Carson will host Reno Tuesday. The game will begin at 7 p.m. at Morse Burley Gym.
Weismann is hoping his team's momentum will carry over to the Senators' game with the Huskies.
"These teams we beat - North Valleys and South Tahoe - were big wins," Weismann said. "It's pretty much a fight for the fourth seed with these guys. The key is getting these wins and upsetting Reno. We haven't beat them in a while. We know a lot of their players. We'll do a lot of film and get ready for that."