Carson falls just short in play-in game
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – Conventional wisdom dictated that in order to beat North Valleys in Monday’s postseason play-in game, Carson had to contain the Panthers’ flammable guard Archie Kovich and have a balanced scoring attack.
But even though the Senators held Kovich to 15 points (including none in the first quarter) and had four of their own players score in double figures, it wasn’t enough as the Panthers took a 79-75 victory at Damonte Ranch High School.
With the win North Valleys improved its record to 16-11, claimed the Sierra League’s fourth seed and advanced to the Northern 4A regional playoffs. The Panthers will face High Desert League No. 1 seed Galena, on Wednesday.
“When we were wasting a lot of energy on (Kovich), their other guys stepped up and made the three,” said Carson coach Bruce Barnes, whose Senators finished the season 14-14. “Our guys played their hearts out. It was a great game.”
One of the players that stepped up for Kovich, who averaged 32.8 points per game heading into the meeting with Carson, was Craig Davidson. Davidson had six of North Valleys’ 12 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 20 points.
Mike Stefanson (15 points) added three more treys and Kovich, Jason Lyons (seven points) and Will Bell (five points) each had one.
Justin Nickles also scored 10 points for the Panthers.
“Believe it or not, we have other guys who can shoot the ball,” said sixth-year North Valleys coach Kyle Cerfoglio. “They stepped up tonight. Carson did a great job guarding Archie – like no one has this year. We weren’t getting a lot inside.”
Rob Valerius and Zach Weismann led Carson with 16 points each, Will Holbert added 15 and Joe Leatham came off the bench with 10 as the Senators were in the game until the end.
Holbert worked his way around foul trouble and found Weismann to tie the game at 68, with 2 minutes, 50 seconds to play. The play capped a 7-2 run for Carson, which battled back from a 66-61 deficit with 5:48 to go.
Holbert started the surge with a layup, Paul Cagle converted one of two free throws and Holbert dished off to Caleb Carter for another basket before Stefanson responded with a three for North Valleys and a 71-68 lead.
Carter, who along with Cagle had nine points, made a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 71-70, with 2:34 to go.
Kovich popped in a 10-footer to increase the Panthers’ lead to three, but Valerius drove in for a layup to make it 73-72, with 1:27 remaining.
“Valerius was phenomenal tonight,” Barnes said. “He showed the kind of player that he is. He did everything well for us. So did everyone else. On any other given night, that game was ours. But (North Valleys’) other guys made some shots they wouldn’t normally hit.”
Valerius also added an unofficial six rebounds and Holbert an unofficial seven boards, but Holbert picked up his fourth foul with 4:32 to go. He would eventually foul out with 41 seconds remaining in the game.
Following Valerius’ bucket, Carter fouled Davidson, who made both of his free throws with 1:15 to go. Valerius converted one of his two free throws to get Carson within 75-73 10 seconds later, but a Carson turnover and a pair of Kovich free throws put the game on ice for the Panthers, who will now get a taste of the Grizzlies.
Galena went unbeaten in league play at 12-0 and is 18-9 overall.
“What a present that is,” Cerfoglio said, rolling his eyes and smiling. “I don’t know if we can stop Galena. I’m proud of our guys and how hard they fought through adversity. I’m proud of the way we battled back and won the game.”
Carson took a 5-0 lead on a Holbert putback and a Weismann three, but North Valleys kept the game close and battled back to tie it at 12 on Davidson’s first 3-pointer, with 2:52 to go in the first.
Lyons’ three gave the Panthers a 15-14 lead with 2:30 to go, but Holbert and Carter each had a 3-pointer to give Carson a 20-15 lead. Stefanson’s trey tied it at 22 at the end of the first quarter.
The lead changed hands for the fourth time in the second quarter on a pair of Weismann free throws to make it 29-28, with 5:55 to go.
Kovich scored his first points on a 3-pointer to cut Carson’s lead to 35-34, but Holbert answered with his own three with 3:32 remaining in the half.
Leatham scored his sixth point of the first half to give Carson its biggest lead – 40-34, with 2:35 to go – but North Valleys finished strong and trailed 42-39 at the break.
Davidson and Kovich each scored a 3-pointer to open the second half, giving North Valleys a 44-42 lead. The Panthers never trailed again.
In spite of the loss Barnes was upbeat in discussing the Senators’ season.
“We’ve come a long ways since Laguna Creek (a 48-26 loss) in our first game to who we put on the floor tonight,” Barnes said. “They did a great job and we’ll get the majority of the guys back (Weismann and Leatham are the only two seniors). They’ll be hungry next year.”
To the victors go the spoils and to that end Cerfoglio said his team will do its best against Galena.
“Sometimes we don’t look pretty, but we’ll run, shoot and do what we can do,” Cerfoglio said. “I don’t know if we can stop them. Man for man, they’re bigger and stronger. If we can outscore them, that’s what we’ll try to do.”
The Grizzlies-Panthers game begins Wednesday at 7 p.m., at Galena High School.