Capital Classic will tip off |

Capital Classic will tip off

by Charles Whisnand
Appeal Sports Editor

While it has already looked like Christmas ever since – really Halloween – it’s beginning to look like a wide open Northern Nevada boys basketball season for the rest of the year.

And the Carson Lions Capital Classic should be representative of that as this year’s tournament looks to be as wide open as ever. On paper as many as five teams could be considered to have a shot at the title and there doesn’t look to be a dominant team in this year’s field.

“I don’t think we have that this year,” said Carson coach Bruce Barnes about a dominant team.

The tournament kicks off today with Hug playing Spring Creek at 4:30 p.m. and Reed facing Northern California Central at 6 p.m. in one bracket. In the other bracket, Spanish Springs and Sparks will play at 3 p.m. and Carson will face Fernley at 7:30. The championship game will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday.

The tournament will feature one of Northern Nevada’s premiere players in Armon Johnson, who has signed with the University of Nevada. Johnson has already put on a show this season with the latest feature coming on Tuesday when he scored 46 points in Hug’s 91-75 win over North Valleys in their Sierra League opener.

But Barnes was quick to point out Hug has more than just Johnson. “The whole group around him are playing really well,” Barnes said.

If Hug beats Spring Creek and Reed defeats Central, those two teams would play in the semifinals. “Reed has the same kind of team,” said Barnes, comparing the Raiders with the Hawks.

Reed is also coming off an impressive effort on Tuesday in its High Desert League opener against Galena, leading 28-26 at halftime before falling 72-60.

The Raiders, though, should be seriously challenged by Central, a team that will be significantly bigger than Reed. It goes 6-5, 6-5 up front and has a strong nucleus coming back from a successful season last year.

“They’ve got some size on their team,” Barnes said. “They’re a pretty experienced team.”

If Carson can get past Fernley and Spanish Springs can get past Sparks, those two teams will play each other in the semifinals. Spanish Springs has also been impressive this year, leading Hug by 18 points before falling 79-71.

Barnes also said his team should be able to contend for the title. Carson’s most impressive win this year was a 59-57 victory over Reed at the Carson Valley Classic. “I’m confident that we have as good of chance as anybody,” Barnes said.

“I think the thing we’re lacking is consistency,” Barnes also said about his team so far this season. “We haven’t played to our potential.”

But other than the 48-26 loss to Laguna Creek of the Sacramento area in its season opener at the Carson Valley Classic, Barnes said he’s been relatively pleased with his team’s play. “We shot the ball miserably,” Barnes said.

Barnes said his team has shot “decent” since that game, but still needs to work on its shot selection.

“We’re so perimeter-oriented,” Barnes said. “We’re trying to become a little bit better on our shot selection.”

While Carson (2-2) has only two seniors, Barnes said he can’t allow his team’s youth to be a crutch. “You can’t use the youth button too much,” Barnes said.

He used sophomore point guard Matt Rutledge as an example. Barnes said Rutledge has played well, but must continue to play well in a position that’s difficult for a sophomore. “I treat him like he’s a senior,” Barnes said.

Not surprisingly, the Senators have been led by senior Zach Weismann. “Zach has been fairly consistent for us,” Barnes said. “I expected that of him.”

Another player who has provided leadership is Rob Valerius, Barnes said.