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Carson girls outlast Spanish Springs

BY DARRELL MOODY

Nevada Appeal Sports Writer

The season isn’t even a month old, and the Carson High School girls basketball team has already has as many wins as it recorded all of last year.

The Senators improved to 6-2 with a thrilling 52-50 nonleague win over Spanish Springs Saturday at Morse Burley Gymnasium.

“They (the girls) don’t show it, but they’re happy they are winning,” Carson coach Todd Ackerman said. “For what we went through last year and where we are now, they have been through a lot.”

The victory gives Carson some momentum heading into Dec. 27, when it plays in the Las Vegas Invitational. Carson will play two games on Dec. 27, two on Dec. 28 and one on Dec. 29.

Carson led the entire game, but saw a 17-point second-quarter lead almost evaporate in the fourth quarter when the Cougars trimmed the lead to one point three different times. The last time was 51-50, when Spanish Springs’ Ari James knocked in the second of two free throws with 28 seconds left.

Carson’s Blaike King made one free throw with 8.5 left to make it 52-50. Carson went without a field goal in the final 7:47.

James drove the lane and her shot was blocked out of bounds with :02 left on the clock. Spanish Springs inbounded the ball and James tried to tip it toward the basket as time expired.

“I’m fine with putting the ball in Ari’s hands,” said Spanish Springs head coach Christine Eckles. “There were only eight seconds left and we drove the length of the floor. We shouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place.”

Eckles was referring to the first half when the Cougars scored just 10 points, all in the first quarter, and fell behind 24-10 after two periods. Spanish Springs turned the ball over 21 times in the first half, including 11 times in the second quarter. The Cougars also went 0-for-7 from the floor.

“It was just about us,” Eckles said. “We turned the ball over 21 times (in the first half) and only four times the rest of the way. We didn’t come ready to play, like we were already on Christmas break.”

The Cougars should have been behind by more than 14, but Carson didn’t take care of the ball in the second quarter, turning it over eight times. Carson only scored nine points in the quarter, six of those coming in the final 2:41 seconds. Carson went 2-for-10 from the floor.

Spanish Springs regrouped in the second half, outscoring Carson 14-5 in the final three-plus minutes of the third quarter to cut the lead to 39-32. Tiffany Lang, who injured her ankle in the first quarter, dropped in two 3-point field goals during the surge.

Brandi Vega, who led the Senators with 20 points, had two 3-pointers including one with 6.1 seconds remaining.

“We finally picked up our defense,” Eckles said. “We didn’t play defense the first half. We let them do what they wanted.”

Cassie Vondrak, who had seven points and six rebounds, started the fourth quarter with a basket with 7:47 left. That would be Carson’s last field goal of the game. Spanish Spring went on a 9-4 run to cut the lead to 45-43 with 2:23 remaining.

Vega made it a 48-43 lead with three free throws, but two free throws by Courtney Darby and a James lay-up trimmed the lead to one, 48-47 at the 1:10 mark.

Vega, who made some critical mistakes in the final quarter, made it 51-49 with 35 seconds remaining after making one of two free throws. James and King traded free throws to make it 52-50, setting the stage for the final Cougar possession.

Spanish Springs picked up its defensive pressure against Vega, trying to make her go left as much as possible. At one point in the waning seconds, she had to get through a triple-team before giving up the ball.

“We did a very good job of making her go right,” Eckles said. “Maybe we should have gone to it earlier.”

Gina Bianchi was able to give Vega a little bit of support, scoring eight of her 14 in the second half. Bianchi drained two free throws with 52.3 left to give Carson a 50-47 lead.

“We didn’t play well in the second half,” Ackerman said. “The girls are a little down. We didn’t shoot it well. We weren’t smart with the ball. We didn’t get into our offense (very well) in the second half. We need to get more than a pass, catch and a shot.”