SOUTH LAKE TAHOE - When South Tahoe High switched to a 2-3 zone defense Tuesday night in the third quarter because of foul trouble and a short bench, Carson was grateful.
The Senators repeatedly found the open perimeter shooter to break open a tight Sierra League girls' basketball opener for a 51-44 victory.
"It's good to get back on a winning track. To win this league game is huge because we don't play another one until after Christmas (break)," said Carson coach Todd Ackerman, whose team snapped a two-game losing streak to improve to 5-2 overall.
Whitney Nash scored all 10 of her points, including a pair of trifectas, during the pivotal third period that ended with Carson ahead 35-28.
Nash's hot shooting became contagious for her teammates. Ashley Saarem swished a 10-foot shot early in the final period to give the Senators their first double-digit lead, 38-28. Shortly thereafter Eliza Matley buried a 12-footer to give Carson its biggest lead, 40-28.
"We're really a pretty good outside-shooting team," Ackerman said. "They go to zone, and I think our girls know they can hit that shot."
Terra Backinger, who finished with a game-high 17 points, said the switch from man-to-man to a zone defense was an opportunity for the Vikings to catch their breath. The Vikings' bench was limited to four players after senior guard Cassandra Diaz injured a knee last weekend.
"We knew we had to get on the shooters, and we couldn't do it," Backinger said. "I know if we had Cassandra, we could have won this game."
South Tahoe senior post Alexis Nunes-Fenley tried to cut into the Carson lead. She hit a pair of free throws, but then her three-point attempt from the corner rimmed out - a shot that would have sliced the Senators' lead to five.
Holmes' pull-up jumper along the baseline cut Carson's lead to 45-38 with just over 2 minutes remaining, but the Senators' Natalie Stevens had a prompt answer. Her perimeter shot gave Carson some breathing room and helped the Senators withstand three-point baskets by Holmes and Backinger in the final minute of play.
"I haven't been too on this year," said Backinger, who made three trifectas for the second straight game. "I don't know, maybe just playing Carson I got my shot better."
Stevens responded to the assignment of trying to defend Holmes, South Tahoe's leading scorer. Holmes was held scoreless in the first period but wound up scoring 17 points to share the game's high-scoring honors with Backinger.
"She's a quick little kid," Ackerman said. "We know (Alexis) can shoot it, but we tried to keep somebody fresh and quick on her to make her work."
Carson led throughout the first half, creating some separation with a full-court press. Trigged by 6-of-6 free throw shooting by Backinger, the Vikings went on an 8-2 run during the final 97 seconds to forge a 19-19 halftime tie.
Gina Bianchi also scored 10 points for Carson.
South Tahoe (2-3 overall, 0-1 league) will try to even its Sierra League record on Thursday against Wooster. Tip-off is at 5:15 in South Lake Tahoe.
CARSON BOYS 49, SOUTH TAHOE 38
Carson High dropped in five free throws inside he final two minutes to hold off the Vikings and win its Sierra League opener.
"It was a sloppy game," Carson coach Bruce Barnes said. "We didn't play very well.
"We're an impatient team right now. I don't think we ran our offense for more than 15 seconds all night with ou without the lead. We have to slow some of their motors down somehow."
South Tahoe trimmed a double-digit Carson lead to six points in the final two minutes, but the Senators withstood the surge.
Ricky Braun's conventional three-point play with 1 minute, 47 seconds left pulled the Vikings within 44-38, but Carson sank five free thows, including two by Brian Barnes off a technical foul, to seal the win.
Barnes led the Senators with a game-high 18 points, while Trey Jensen netted nine.
Braun scored six of his team-high 13 points in the fourth quarter.
CARSON 46, SOUTH TAHOE 23
Michael Bass and Rafe King scored nine points apiece to lead the Senators to an easy win in their Sierra League opener.
Carson improved to 5-0 overall and 1-0 in league.