A look at Carson teams’ playoff hopes
Appeal Sports Writer
With the conference season now half over for the Carson boys and girls basketball teams, the time has come to evaluate their respective chances at postseason play in the Northern 4 Regional championships.
Of course I’m a new arrival at the Nevada Appeal, but I have seen all seven of each team’s Sierra League games. So, ready or not, here’s my opinion.
The Lady Senators will make the playoffs. From what I’ve seen it would take a meltdown of nearly epic proportions to keep the Carson girls, who are 5-2 in Sierra League play (9-12 overall), out of the playoffs.
First-year girls coach Ric Garcia is simply doing his job too well for that to happen. No, a coach can’t and doesn’t do the actual playing. But what Garcia does do is get his message across in no uncertain terms during practice and during games.
I know this to be true not only because the players have repeated to me practically verbatim what Garcia has told me is his philosophy. But even more important, they’ve shown it with their play.
Offensively Garcia wants his team to pass the ball until a) an open player can take a good shot, or b) until someone can penetrate to the basket. When Carson does this well, you won’t see players launching ill-advised 3-pointers, something on which the team has improved since its first conference game against Hug (a 63-21 win) and the following 51-45 loss to McQueen (in a non-conference game).
Senior Rosella Nunez and freshman Brandi Vega both do a good job of finding the open player from the point guard position or hitting the outside shot – be it a long two or a three.
Both refrain for the most part from succumbing to the urge to shoot more often and can get it in to 6-foot-2 center Nicole Scott (who can also shoot well from the outside), 5-10 Sinead McSweeney, or 6-foot senior Catherine Brekken for the close bucket. Or they can drive it in and/or draw the foul.
And both Nunez and Vega are good foul-shooters.
Junior Megan Kilty has also made good strides in the guard position and has met its demands off the bench. Fellow guards Christy Works, Sarah Evans and Kaitlin Burroughs are also improving steadily.
Senior forward Briana Dodge (5-10) brings her experience to the table and junior bigs like Anna Macquarie and Hannah Works combine with sophomore Abby Rankl and freshman Blaike King to play valuable minutes and help contribute points.
All of the players see minutes and on two occasions – in wins against Wooster and South Tahoe – all of the players who suited up scored.
The defensive philosophy is to play tough while limiting fouls and hence free throws. In that respect – with the exception of its 26 fouls against Reno, 25 against McQueen and its 19 against Douglas (all losses) – this has dir ectly contributed to all of its wins.
Under Garcia this team also bounced back from the defeats to McQueen (a non-conference opponent) and Douglas, so it shows this group doesn’t tend to bring negative baggage to the ensuing game following a loss.
I don’t think playing on the road (including a game at Douglas tonight) will be too detrimental to the Lady Senators, who beat an undefeated North Valleys in its own house in a game in which Garcia and his players were able to make the necessary adjustments to come back from a first-quarter deficit and win.
This again is a sign of good coaching, mental toughness and good team chemistry, all of which I believe gives Carson a shot at a second-place finish or at least a playoff berth and possibly a shot at the state tournament.
When evaluating the boys team, I’m going to use two “E” words – energy and execution – which seem to go hand in hand with how this group has performed in compiling a 3-4 record in the Sierra League, 9-11 overall.
In short, the boys team has a decent chance at seeing postseason play, but that comes with one caveat: It absolutely has to consistently bring energy and be able to execute in order to do it.
This is not a team blessed with height – senior forwards Jake Jeffers and Jack Jacquet are only 6-3 and 6-2 respectively. The well-built Jeffers gets by on hustle, muscle and determination, while Jacquet has excellent vertical skills – like when he stuffed South Tahoe’s 6-foot-8 center Joel Keegan when Keegan tried to steamroll him in a 57-42 Carson victory.
With the exception of Carson’s 67-61 loss to the Hug Hawks – whom Reno coach Kyle Schellin calls the best team in the Sierra League – in its conference opener, the Senators have lost only when they fail to bring their prodigious energy to the game.
Hug is exceptionally athletic and quick, but a motivated Carson brought its vim and vigor and made it close.
Consequently, when Carson fails (for whatever reason) to bring its spark, it has lost. It looked out of sync in a 54-42 home loss to Damonte Ranch – although 6-10 center Chris Carlson had a lot to do with that.
And on the road against North Valleys, the Senators just ran into a team that could do nothing wrong and Carson came out flat on the way to a 77-65 loss.
All of Carson’s league losses could be linked to its lack of consistent execution, which (again) is inextricably linked with what kind of energy it brings to the respective game.
But there are two main reasons why I feel this Carson team should not be ruled out of a possible playoff berth, by finishing either third or fourth in the Sierra League.
First is coach Bruce Barnes, who could aptly be called loud and proud. He is a high-volume coach who imparts his message quite unambiguously – and he refuses to sit on his hands if his team struggles. He has found a way to keep bringing his players back from tough losses.
Second are the players (both the seniors and the second team), who are the ones who have to actually bring it, as they most notably did in a crushing 89-41 win over Wooster and in a dramatic 43-42 win against Douglas, following the losses to Hug and Damonte Ranch.
And following the defeat to North Valleys, they defeated a South Tahoe team that was coming off a solid 57-48 win over the Tigers.
This is not a team to lay down and has solid senior leadership comprised of Kevin Brush, Steve Mandoki, Adam Houghton, Jacquet, Jeremiah Teeter and deadeye 3-point shooter Bryon Wilson.
Factor in juniors like Jeffers and the smooth Zach Weismann – who scored the game-winning basket against Douglas – and you have a solid group.
There isn’t a dog among its remaining players – junior Brooks Greenlee, sophomores Rob Valerius and Joe Leatham, and freshman Matt Rutledge.
With the majority of its remaining games on the road – Douglas tonight, Hug, Damonte Ranch, Wooster and South Tahoe – Carson has an uphill battle to make it to zone, especially with two tough home games against Reno and North Valleys.
But this team is resilient and well-coached. If it consistently brings its energy and executes in these games, the Carson boys will slip into zone following a fourth-place finish.