RENO - It was a game that North Valleys was winning when it was jacking up 3-pointers in the first half, but in the end it was the Carson Senators who won by three points after staving off a furious fourth-quarter rally by the Panthers.
Four Senators scored in double figures - Caleb Carter (16 points), Paul Cagle (12), Rob Valerius (11) and Brian Barnes (10)-as Carson took a 64-61 victory to improve to 3-3 in Sierra League play and 10-9 overall.
North Valleys fell to 2-3, 6-10, but not before coming back from a 58-46 deficit, with 3 minutes, 16 seconds remaining in the game, to come within one at 62-61 with 4 seconds to go.
Barnes, who finished 5-of-9 from the charity strip, converted his final two free throws with just over 2 seconds left to preserve the win.
Carson, which went 22-of-45 from the floor, converted only 15-of-31 from the line.
"I just try not to think about it. I just treat it like I do every day in practice," said Barnes when asked if he was feeling any pressure while putting away the game. "(The Panthers) came back at the end and made a run on us, but we held on. We've learned how to survive when a team makes a run. It makes us stronger as a team. It helps us more in the long run than if we won by 20."
North Valleys finished 22-57 from the floor and 10-of-14 from the line. The Panthers were led by Will Bell - who scored a team-high 16 points, including eight in the fourth quarter run - and Aaron Short, with 12.
Bell, Short, Mike Stefansson and Matt Drayton scored a combined five 3-pointers as North Valleys led 23-17 after one quarter and 37-35 at halftime after the Senators made a rally to take the lead (27-25) once in the second.
But Carson took command in the third quarter, going up 51-40 courtesy of a 16-4 run. Barnes buried a trey to give Carson the lead at 40-38, and Valerius added three points, Carter four, Zach Rispin one and Barnes added a three-point play as the pendulum swung in favor of the Senators.
"The third quarter was definitely the difference," said North Valleys coach Kyle Cerfoglio. "They came out of the locker room and we forgot to. We stopped trying to throw the ball inside and started watching."
The shorthanded Senators had a different approach.
"We're playing with a lot of energy," said Carson coach Bruce Barnes. "The kids are dealing with adversity. We lost Will (Holbert), and they found a way to deal with that. Then we lost David (Eller) and we found a way to deal with that tonight. But we need to get him back. Our biggest guy on the bench is 5-11."
Holbert is lost for the season with a leg injury and Eller missed Saturday's game after getting 10 stitches in his forehead following an injury in Friday's win against Wooster.
Coach Barnes said Eller dove for a loose ball when a Wooster player landed on his head. Barnes said Eller was fortunate not to suffer a concussion or a jaw injury and he is expected back this week.
Carson entered the fourth quarter with a 53-43 advantage and began to run its ball control offense, executing several precise passes while holding the ball and burning the clock.
"We needed to pressure them. It took us three minutes (into the final quarter) before we decided to do that," Cerfoglio said. "We let them run three to four minutes off the clock to start the quarter.
"Credit to that team, which can actually hold the ball. A lot of high school teams can't hold the ball for one minute - or even 30 seconds."
It was high-percentage basketball by the Senators, who when they did take a shot, it was usually a layup.
"It was one of those Saturday games where we just had a close, tough ballgame at South Tahoe," Cerfoglio said. "Both teams were trying to feel each other out. Early on we hit more shots because we were at home."
Carson led by 12 twice - a Valerius layup made it 57-45 and a Matt Rutledge free throw pushed the lead to 58-46 - but the final three minutes turned into a mud-wrestling contest as Carson made only one more basket and went 6-for-10 from the line as compared to 4-of-6 for the Panthers, who also got three baskets, including a 3-pointer from Bell, which drew North Valleys to within 62-61 with 4 seconds to go.
"That game all came down to perseverance and fighting through adversity," coach Barnes said. "We grew up quite a bit as a team. We learned how to execute at the end of a game.
"I thought we could've put it away with three minutes to go in the game if we converted from the free throw line. Like I told the team, we had a horrible night at the free throw line, but we found a way to win. Sometimes you learn more from that than you do putting it away."
Next up for Carson is South Tahoe. Tip-off is 7 p.m. Tuesday at Morse Burley Gym.
"We watched film of them playing North Valleys. They look tough," Brian Barnes said of the Vikings. "They were up by eight until North Valleys came back. It's a game we want to win to put us in position for the third or fourth position after the first half of league play. We have to play pretty well."