Carson girls set to face Galena
Appeal Sports Writer
It was Nov. 30 and the Reed Raiders, in their season-opener at Reed High School, had just taken the Carson girls basketball team to school, 87-50.
“You’d think I’d be down, but I’m not,” second-year Carson coach Ric Garcia said when the Nevada Appeal asked him for his reaction. “I think we can compete. We’re athletic enough…We’ll be OK.”
And it didn’t take long for Garcia’s words to turn prophetic as the Senators would go on in their next game to defeat Galena, 52-46. Then came a 75-8 shellacking of Sparks.
It’s been a little over two months since then and the Senators are indeed competitive, athletic and “OK.””
Carson, which finished 12-2 in Sierra League play and is 23-5 overall, is seeded second and will host High Desert League No. 3 seed Galena (18-8) tonight at 7 p.m. in the first round of the Northern 4A regional playoffs.
“It’s been leaps and bounds since then,” Garcia said of his team’s improvements since its game with Reed. “They’ve matured. They’ve had lots of games under their belts. They’ve faced a lot of competition. They were on the road for more than a month and they’re not afraid to travel.
“They’ve come together as a team, which takes time. A lot of teams – like Reed and Reno – have played together for years. Especially early in the season, they’re way ahead. They’ve played the summer and fall together and when you come in fresh – ‘Here we are’ – it’s a mismatch.”
Carson lost three of its games to California teams and its only league setbacks were to first-place and Sierra League No. 1 seed Reno. Although the Huskies took a 67-44 win in the teams’ first meeting, in their second game they had to overcome an eight-point Senators lead in a 1 minute, 35-second span to force overtime, where they prevailed, 44-41 at Reno High School on Friday.
Garcia said his players are far from demoralized after the tough loss.
“They will all tell you the game Friday was fun,” Garcia said. “I don’t think it was a huge letdown. It was a positive that we pulled out of it. We made some poor coaching and player decisions and gave up an eight-point lead in the last one-thirty. That’s what (3-pointers) do to you. With threes, it’s a brand new ballgame.
“We had some breakdowns of coverage. (The Huskies) had to drain threes. They did. We weren’t in our correct coverage.”
According to Garcia, the Senators have put the loss behind them and are ready for the Grizzlies and what they hope will be a playoff run.
“I think they’re enthusiastic,” Garcia said of his team’s mindset. “They want to play (the Grizzlies). It will be a fun game. These games draw more people. They like the intensity. We feed off it.
“And we get this one at home. We earned that one. I see it as being a great game. Only one team gets to stay when it’s all said and done. The other one goes home.”
Last year it was the Grizzlies who stayed in playoffs and went on to win the regional championship. Galena defeated Carson, 57-35, in the regional semifinals.
Garcia said the Senators were able to return the favor early this season because of a consistent effort.
“We had a real hot start and finished strong,” Garcia said. “(Freshman center) Danielle Peacon was on fire shooting the ball and hit the first four shots. That kept the pace for us.”
The 6-foot Peacon has made a huge impact in her first year and, along with 5-foot-9 senior forward Anna Macquarie, gives the Senators a strong presence in the paint.
Although she’s a strong post player, Peacon has a soft touch and can hit the outside shot as well.
Carson’s three starting guards – sophomore Brandi Vega and seniors Kaitlin Burroughs and Megan Kilty – have brought fly-paper defense to go along with a clock-draining passing game and the ability to find and make the open shot.
Senior Sarah Evans brings experience off the bench to the guard position, where she is joined by junior Christa Casci and freshman Gina Bianchi. The 5-foot-7 Bianchi can shoot from the outside has also shown a willingness to mix it up under the basket.
Casci had a varsity-high 20 point – including six 3-pointers – in Carson’s 54-41 win over Damonte Ranch on Jan. 9.
Garcia said Casci has been out for a week with the flu and Evans missed the Reno game with a headache, leaving a question mark as to who Carson’s role players will be against Galena.
Junior forward Abby Rankl and sophomore forward Blaike King are each in their second year for Garcia and are joined by a trio of first-year varsity players in junior Morgan Nuckolls and sophomores Kailey Taylor and Cassie Vondrak.
“They all have gotten valuable time,” Garcia said. “We’re not afraid to put any one of them in.”
Garcia said he expects the game with the Grizzlies to “be a hotly contested game” and “a dogfight.”
“Brandi Vega has to have a good game,” Garcia said of Carson’s keys to a victory. “She can hold the tempo. She can break the press and get the steal off our own press. She’s one player that makes us go and score. And Danielle Peacon has got to rebound and score and give us an inside presence.”
The Carson-Galena game begins at 7 p.m. at Morse Burley Gym.
In other regional action tonight (all games will be played at 7 p.m.), Reno (23-5) hosts Elko (19-9); High Desert League No. 1 seed Reed (20-3) hosts North Valleys (13-15) and Manogue (13-11) hosts Douglas (14-16).
The Northern 4A champion will be the only team to advance to next week’s Class 4A state championships in Las Vegas.