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Bianchi leads Senators past Mustangs

Darrell Moody
dmoody@nevadaappeal.com

Carson High’s girls basketball team got offensive help from the expected and unexpected against Damonte Ranch on Friday night.

As expected, Gina Bianchi had a solid night with 22 points and four rebounds. The unexpected help came from Natalie Stevens, who caused havoc with her defense and also scored eight points in the Senators’ 52-47 win over the Mustangs at Morse Burley Gymnasium.

Carson improved to 3-0 in league heading into today’s home game against Bishop Manogue at 3:15 p.m.

“Natalie played real well,” Carson coach Todd Ackerman said. “She had a couple of key steals and layups. Her quickness defensively caused them some problems. Natalie isn’t a great scorer. She’s going to get some steals and she plays hard-nosed.

“Gina played well, and she always plays hard. She will hit a couple of shoots and got confident that she can make any shot, and that’s OK.”

The teams battled on near-even terms for the bulk of the first three periods.

Bianchi, who reached the 20-point plateau for just the second time this season, snapped a 25-all tie with a 3-pointer with 5 minutes, 23 seconds left in the third.

Damonte Ranch roared back with an 8-2 run for a 33-30 lead only to see Carson strike back with three straight baskets and a 36-33 lead with 1:06 remaining.

“We got going too fast (in that stretch),” Ackerman said. “It was one pass and a turnover or one pass and a missed shot. I probably should have called a timeout.”

Stevens had two of the three buckets in that surge, including one that started with her forcing the turnover and finishing at the other end. The last Stevens basket came with 1:43 left and built Carson’s lead to eight points.

Led by Chaiymin Steele, Damonte cut the deficit to 50-47 with 33.6 left, but Bianchi sealed the win with two free throws with 21.9 left.

Bianchi has struggled at times at the offensive end, and part of that is that Ackerman is moving her around to different positions on the floor. A year ago, she pretty much just hung out on the perimeter when Carson was in its half-court sets.

“It’s been a little difficult playing different spots,” Bianchi said. “I get in the rotation more on the inside. I’m just starting to feel comfortable playing different spots.”

The teams were tied at 23 at the half, as Bianchi scored 13 of her points in the first 16 minutes. She played more within the offense than earlier in the season.

“We’ve got to work on our rebounding,” Ackerman said. “We didn’t box out well. I don’t think we shot it well either. We’re going to have games like this and we need to shoot better than we did. We shot free throws well for the most part and that’s been big the last two games.”

Damonte coach Deb Hellen was disappointed with her team’s play at critical times.

“We had a couple of silly turnovers,” Hellen said, alluding to the fourth-quarter stretch when the Senators took control of the game thanks to four consecutive turnovers by the Mustangs. “Carson did a very good job.”