In a preseason interview, Carson High girls basketball coach Nate Tolbert said he wanted to be one of two teams representing the north in this year’s NIAA state tournament.
On Saturday, the Senators fell far short of what they need to do to be one of the two best teams in the area in their first true test of the season.
Carson turned the ball over 17 times and shot just 25 percent from the field in dropping a 63-36 decision to defending regional champion Reno at Morse Burley Gym.
The loss dropped Carson to 4-2 overall and 1-1 in Division I play entering Thursday’s game at Galena at 5:15.
As expected, Tolbert was disappointed with the result.
“We proved at times we could play with them,” Tolbert said. “Our bigs need to get to a level where they can compete with their bigs (Mallory and Morgan McGwire). We had 17 turnovers, and that’s not OK. Most of them were unforced. We all know we could have played a lot better; could have competed better.
“We have the whole season to get ready (to see them again). As we did last year, we’re going to get better. Reducing turnovers will be our focus.”
Reducing turnovers would be nice, but the key if you’re going to beat Reno is trying to contain sophomore Mallory McGwire (19 points) and senior Morgan McGwire (14 points), who is headed to Santa Clara next year. The McGwires had their way with the smaller Carson defenders all day, and they weren’t on the floor at the same time because of the up-tempo offense Carson was trying to play.
“That’s the way we wanted to play (up tempo),” Tolbert said. “That’s the only way you can play against a big team like that is to get up and down the floor. It got to a point where (Reno coach Shane Foster) was just playing one of them at a time.”
And, Carson came out with a physical style of play, which got the Senators into early foul trouble. Both Savannah Smith (11 points) and Natali Salas (7 points) were saddled with two fouls in the opening period, and Reno was in the double bonus by the end of the first quarter. The Huskies, however, didn’t use the multiple trips to the free-throw line to their advantage. Reno went 4-for-14 in the opening eight minutes and finished 16-for-35 for the game.
“It was a very physical game,” said Reno coach Shane Foster, whose team improved to 6-0 on the season. “Free throws? I don’t know how to explain that. We didn’t attack their pressure very well. We know better than that. We should have passed the ball better.”
Despite the fact that Foster said this was the least impressive of the six wins thus far, the Huskies were never in any danger. Carson led twice in the game — 2-0 and 4-2.
The Huskies closed out the first quarter with a 23-4 run to grab a 25-8 lead after one period.
Eleven of the points were scored by 6-4 Mallory McGwire, who is being heavily recruited according to Foster. She missed just two shots in the opening quarter.
Unfortunately for the Senators, the second period wasn’t any better. Reno only scored 15 points, but held Carson to 3-for-16 from the field.
A 12-5 run led by Shalen Shaw (12 points) upped Reno’s lead to 37-15 midway through the second period. Shaw, who would later foul out, had seven of her points in that stretch. Carson managed just two field goals in the final 4-minutes 24-seconds of the half and trailed 40-19 after 16 minutes.
Reno had many moments of sloppiness throughout the game, falling into Carson’s trap of helter-skelter basketball. The Huskies still managed to get the lead to 30, 51-21 with 2:24 left in the third period thanks to a 9-0 run keyed by Morgan McGwire’s five points.
“I think we lost our composure in the last couple of minutes in the third and fourth quarters,” Foster said. “It was helter-skelter out there.”
And, with the height advantage, the Huskies certainly didn’t have to play that way.
Tolbert is right, however, there is nearly two months left in the regular season which leaves Carson plenty of time to step up and start playing prime-time basketball.