A promising first half against co-Sierra League leader Reno turned into a second-half nightmare for the Lady Senators at Morse Burley Gym.
After playing the Lady Huskies on nearly even terms in spite of an error-filled 16 minutes, Carson was unable to adjust to Reno's defense in the final half and went on to lose, 67-44, on Tuesday and fell out of a its first-place tie with the Huskies.
Reno improved to 7-0 in Sierra League play and 16-5 overall, while the Senators slipped to 6-1, 17-4.
"In the first half, I thought we battled real well," second-year Carson coach Ric Garcia said. "I don't think we had the fire in the second half. We had a lot of breakdowns defensively. We did a good job of pushing it in the first half, but we just didn't do well in the second half."
Carson gave up 13 steals to the Huskies, including eight in the first half. Nevertheless, the Senators kept it close heading into the locker room.
Sophomore guard Brandi Vega scored four of her 11 points in the first quarter, giving Carson an early 4-2 lead. And after Reno went on a 9-2 run, forward Anna Macquarie - one of the Senators' four seniors - converted a layup to cut the Huskies' lead to 11-8.
Britton Murdock - one of Reno's seven seniors - drained a 3-pointer and fellow senior Angela Ceccarelli added another trey to close the first quarter with the Huskies on top, 17-8.
Carson guard Megan Kilty kept her team in the game, scoring all four of her points in the first 1 minute, 28 seconds of the second quarter to cut the lead to 17-12.
Macquarie answered a pair of baskets by Ceccarelli and Stepahanie Giudici with a putback before 6-foot-2 Lauren Dwyer converted both of her free throws for a 23-14 Reno lead.
But the Senators closed the half on a 6-1 run, with all six points coming from 6-foot-freshman Danielle Peacon, whose basket at the buzzer closed the gap to 24-20.
Peacon led Carson with 13 points, while Macquarie and freshman Gina Bianchi each added six.
Ceccarelli had a game-high 18 points for Reno, which also got 13 from Raimy Novacek and 10 from Giudici.
"It was a real emotional game," said second-year Huskies coach Shane Foster. "There was a lot of energy on both sides. I give Ric Garcia and his staff and girls credit. They play hard and physical."
But it was the Huskies who tied up in knots the Senators' offense in the second half.
A Peacon free throw got Carson as close as it would get at 24-21 before the Huskies' 12-1 run put the lead out of reach for good at 36-22. Reno led 45-31 after three quarters and bumped its lead to 18 on a Murdock free throw with 4:59 remaining to make it 53-35.
"We made adjustments in the second half," Foster said. "We got a couple of easy baskets and got a cushion. We were able to stay up by 12 to 16 points for the last 10 to 11 minutes. I was pleased with our girls' composure in the second half.
"In the first half we were trying to press and they got some easy baskets. In the second half we played halfcourt defense to keep them in front of us. We didn't allow Brandi to penetrate. She's so fast. We fronted the post, backed the post and took away their first and second options. We did better in the second half."
Lyndsay Pee-et's 3-pointer with 49 seconds left gave the Huskies their largest lead at 65-41.
"They all played (together) last year," Garcia said of Reno and its senior leadership. "They have great shooters, great ball-handlers - they're the whole package. You have to bring your 'A' game to beat them. In the first half we had our 'B' game down, in the second half we had our 'C' game."
Garcia said there were several other factors that contributed to the loss.
"It was a big game...the competition...we're just not used to playing at that level," he said. " They're a great team. They're the better team right now. Some of it was their pressure; some of it was our nervousness. We'll grow from it, learn from it. We have film of it and we'll use it. We have a couple weeks left. Like I told the girls, this game didn't matter."
At least not in the immediate scheme of things.
"We'll take our time and be back in the game," Garcia said. "If we beat the same teams we'll get six more wins and we'll be there. But at this point and time you never assume against anyone."
Up next for Carson is the Douglas Tigers, whom the Senators beat, 44-39, in their first meeting this season at Douglas. Peacon missed just over two quarters of that game after spraining her ankle.
"Again, you don't assume," Garcia said. "We'll have lots of people; they'll have lots of people. It will be a great high school basketball environment."
The Carson-Douglas game begins Friday at 5:15 p.m. at Morse Burley Gym.