Carson’s Smith comes up big in first start
Patrick Smith made his first start of the year and responded with his best game of the season.
Smith poured in 20 points, 14 coming in the first half, to lead Carson to a 58-54 win against Damonte Ranch in a crucial Sierra League boys basketball game for both teams Tuesday night at Morse Burley Gym.
Smith wasn’t the only Carson player to come up big. Senior Matt Rutledge scored 15 points, including six free throws in the final 55 seconds when the Senators held the ball and forced the Mustangs to foul.
Carson, which blew an 11-point lead in the second half, boosted its record to 7-4 with three games left to play.
The Senators visit Galena Friday, host Fallon Tuesday and visit Douglas in its season-ender. Damonte Ranch dropped to 5-6, and the Mustangs need to win two of their last three and get some help to make the post-season. If Carson and Damonte Ranch tie, the Senators own the tie-breaker by virtue of their season sweep.
“This puts us in good shape,” Carson coach Bruce Barnes said. “I think we’re in third by ourselves.”
Smith made the start because Uriel Duran left town during the weekend because of a death in his family. Barnes said he didn’t know when Duran would return, and that he hadn’t any contact with his starting center since the weekend.
“That’s the best I’ve ever seen him play,” said senior guard Matt Rutledge. “He was up on the glass (at both ends). I wish he would play like that every time.”
Part of Smith’s success came because Carson players were able to break down Damonte defenders off the dribble and then slip Smith the ball for easy baskets, most of which came in the first half.
“It was a tough game,” Smith said. “We stepped up in every area. The whole day I was nervous. I get my first start in one of the biggest games in the league. Once the adrenaline kicks in, you don’t think about anything but doing your job.”
Smith scored the Senators’ first six points and 10 of the first 16 to spark Carson to a 16-12 lead. He scored the team’s last four points of the second quarter, as Carson led 33-31 at the half.
“It was good for him to come out hot,” Barnes said.
No more than six points separated the teams in the first half, and the game was tied five times in the first 16 minutes.
It was the Smith and Kalvin Case show in the third quarter. The two sparked an 11-2 run in the first 4:26 of the quarter to give Carson a 41-33 lead. Smith scored in the key, Case dropped in two jump shots and then Smith drained two free throws and scored on a putback for a 43-33 advantage. Paul Cagle III completed the barrage with a free throw with 3:34 left.
The Senators were outscored 11-0 in the final 3:34 of the third quarter and the first two minutes of the fourth quarter to tie the game at 44 with 6:06 left. Garrett Menghini scored back-to-back buckets and Josh Angrick drained a 3-pointer to highlight the rally.
The Mustangs briefly took a 47-46 lead on a 3-pointer by Matt Nuthall, but Cagle nailed two free throws and Rutledge drove the lane for a basket to give the Senators a 50-47 lead with 4:45 left. A basket by Pete Larsen and free throw by Nuthall tied the game at 50 with 3:41 remaining.
Case gave Carson the lead for good, 52-50, with a basket at the 3:12 mark. Damonte went scoreless on its next two possessions, and the Senators made them pay the second time when Rutledge made two free throws for a 54-50 lead. Brian Barnes missed a chance to extend the lead when he missed the front end of a on-and-one situation with 47.5 left.
Kyle Brush’s driving lay-up cut the lead to 54-52. Rutledge and Brush matched free throws to make it 56-54, and then Rutledge ended Damonte’s rally with two more free throws with a 58-54 lead.
“You want the ball in that situation,” Rutledge said. “You have to be comfortable with the free throws.”
“I always put it on the seniors,” coach Barnes said. “He and Paul have been here four years. They need to make the plays.”
It was a disappointing ending for Damonte, which needed the win to gain the tie-breaker over Carson.
“They made the plays when it counted,” Damonte coach Torrey Sheets said. “We couldn’t convert any of the opportunities we had.”