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Carson boys basketball beats North Valleys

Mike Houser
Nevada Appeal Sports Writer

RENO ” The 2008-09 version of the Carson Senators boys basketball team took the floor against the North Valleys Panthers on Tuesday and seven new faces were mixed with six returning players on the squad ” and in one case a new name (sort of) went with the same face.

The new and old Senators combined forces to take a 50-43 win over the Panthers in the nonleague season-opener for both teams at North Valleys High School.

Returning veterans Matt Rutledge (10 points), sophomore Brian Barnes (nine) and Paul Cagle ” now known as Paul Cagle III ” (eight) combined for 27 of Carson’s points while junior Uriel Duran ” now a starting forward ” added nine in the win.

“I think on any given night you need to be a balanced in your scoring,” said Bruce Barnes, who is returning for his ninth season as the Senators head coach. “It was a typical first game. We had some jitters. We weren’t very good in the first half.”

After trading the lead six times in the first quarter, Carson turned a 12-8 deficit into a 23-21 lead at halftime courtesy of a 3-pointer by Ian Gunn at the buzzer.

The Senators were slightly more accurate ” they were 10-of-17 from the floor ” than the Panthers (9-of-19) and forced 13 turnovers in the opening half.

It was a solemn and emotional halftime for the Panthers, who retired the No. 5 jersey of 2006 North Valleys graduate Bryan Coursey. Coursey died 17 days after being shot in the head in June.

Coursey was 20 and still holds the record for career assists (338) for North Valleys and also holds the Panthers’ single-game marks for assists (12) and steals (11).

“He was a great kid,” Barnes said of Coursey. “He was a great competitor. I remember him well. It’s a tragedy what the (Coursey) family went through. He was a tough-minded kid who loved basketball.”

The Panthers seemed to draw inspiration from the halftime tribute and tied the game six times in the third quarter before Carson assumed control and led 39-34 going into the fourth.

“We got the tempo going,” Barnes said of the Senators’ surge, in which they went on a 7-0 run to take a 39-32 lead with 1 minute, 36 seconds left in the third and subsequently took a nine-point lead in the fourth. “We got a steal and a couple of back-to-back threes to get some breathing room.”

Panther John Callahan’s fall-away shot closed the gap to 39-36, but Cagle connected on a pair of treys to give Carson a 45-36 lead ” its largest of the night ” with 6:44 to go in the game.

After a 17-footer and a 3-pointer by Will Bell and a Josh Adams putback, the Panthers went on a 7-1 run to narrow Carson’s lead to 46-43 with 3:40 to go. The Senators bounced back, though, and were able to put the game away after a leaner and a pair of free throws by Rutledge.

Bell led the Panthers with 12 points. Ajani Norman added eight and Vince Bolf seven for North Valleys.

“We need to work on good shot selection,” Barnes said. “Our shot selection with the lead wasn’t very good.”

That said, Carson’s defense was solid and forced 25 North Valleys turnovers.

The Senators committed 17 turnovers, finished 20-of-48 from the floor and converted only 5-of-15 free throws. North Valleys hit 19-of-41 shots from the field and was 1-of-3 from the charity stripe.

Behind Duran and new-face junior forward Pat Smith ” who chipped in six points and added several rebounds ” the Senators established a presence in the paint.

“In the second half Uriel did a good job posting and Pat Smith came off the bench and got some crucial rebounds for us,” Barnes said. “That’s something we’ll need this year. That’s one of his (the 6-foot-3 Smith’s) strengths.”

Barnes said his team’s main strength is in its guard play, where most of its experience is at, and as his players develop he would be looking for more post play to take away possible double-teams from his shooters.

Carson faces Bear River (Calif.) in the first game of the Rotary Classic tournament, which begins Thursday and runs through Saturday at South Tahoe High School.

The Carson-Bear Valley game begins at 6 p.m.