RENO — Jayden DeJoseph played one of the best games of his Carson High School career, but unfortunately the Senators had nothing but a hard-fought loss to show for it.
The Senators’ sharp-shooting senior poured in 31 points in his last game in a CHS uniform, but Reno knocked in nine straight free throws in the final 81 seconds to grab a 56-49 victory in the NIAA 4A quarterfinal game Tuesday night.
The loss ended Carson’s season, while Reno plays Galena on Thursday at 5:30 at Carson High in the semifinals.
“I would have rather had a win than have a decent game,” DeJoseph said. “I was pretty confident coming in and really excited. I took a lot of bad shots, too. We played tough. We came in and thought we had a good chance to win this game. We played hard, but came up a little short.”
“He came out ready to play,” said teammate Tez Allen, who finished with 11 points. “He didn’t have a good game the last time we played (49-35 loss). I think he had something to prove.”
This was a championship-style game, the best of Tuesday’s first round of playoff match-ups. Until the final 15 seconds, the teams were never separated by more than six points. There was plenty of drama in this one.
And, the Senators had their opportunities to win.
Drew Rippingham’s three-point play with 1:21 left gave the Huskies a 48-44 lead. Allen, who finished with 11, made it 48-46. Carson took three fouls to put Reno in the bonus. Tommy Challis hit two free throws to make it 50-46 with 36.7 left.
On the ensuing possession, Trent Robison forced a pass inside that was intercepted by a Reno defender. It led to two more Challis free throws and a 52-46 advantage with 25.8 left.
DeJoseph, who had 18 of his points in the opening half, drained a long 3-pointer to make it 52-49 with 15.7 left. Johnny Damon made two free throws to make it 54-49 with 13.6 left. DeJoseph’s 3-point attempt went in and out, and Rippingham closed it with two free throws.
“We spend a lot of time on free throws,” Reno coach Matt Ochs said. “We haven’t shot them well the last 2-3 games.
“I told you guys (after the first game) that whoever saw them last was going to have some problems. Tez (Allen) is good and Jayden (DeJoseph) is good. They are a good team.”
Carson head coach Carlos Mendeguia agreed.
“We played one of our worst games (of the season) that night,” Mendeguia said. “The first time wasn’t indicative of who we were.”
It was only the second game back from a five-game suspension for DeJoseph and Geraet Rauh.
“I thought we played hard, and that’s all you can ask,” Mendeguia said. “You have got to make free throws. We missed a couple of free throws down the stretch.”
Robison missed two free throws with 1:39 left and Reno holding onto a 45-44 lead.
Reno plays a 2-3 zone defense and tries to clog the middle. The Huskies held Allen to five first-half points.
“Every time I got the ball, they were collapsing,” Allen said. Allen made several nice assists, again demonstrating his above-average vision.
“They do that (all the time),” Mendeguia said. “They just try to clog the middle. I thought we did a good job of being patient and finding the gaps.”
The Huskies, however, had no answer for DeJoseph — ever.
DeJoseph poured in 14 first-quarter points, including three 3-pointers and a three-point play. Had it not been for DeJoseph, Carson would have trailed by much more than 18-17.
“We didn’t do as good of a job rotating tonight,” Ochs said. “We left the baseline open a lot tonight. Jayden is a good shooter, and he should be in the discussion for Player of the Year on that side.”
Trailing 23-19, Carson went on a 9-3 run to close the half and take a 28-26 advantage into the locker room. Four players — Brandon Gagnon, Allen, Robison and DeJoseph — had a hand in the surge.
Allen’s three-point play gave Carson a 24-23 lead, and after Damon knocked down two free throws with 1:37 remaining, Robison scored on a putback and DeJoseph drained two free throws.
Carson gained its biggest lead, 36-31, on a bucket by Robison. Reno closed the third quarter with a 10-1 run to lead 41-38 after three. Rippingham and Damon had 3-pointers in the surge.
That set the stage for a wild fourth quarter. Reno was able to maintain its lead throughout the final eight minutes.