Jace Keema basks in doing the dirty work for the Senators
CARSON (25-5) VS. Coronado (21-4)
When: Thursday, 8 p.m.
Where: Lawlor Events Center
Coaches: Carlos Mendeguia (Carson) and Jeff Kaufman (Coronado)
Probable starters: CARSON — F: Tez Allen (6-3, Jr.) and Jayden DeJoseph (6-4, Jr.); G: Asa Carter (6-1, Sr.), Jace Keema (6-0, Jr.) and Jared Rooker (5-10, Sr.) or Cody Azevedo (5-10, Sr.); CORONADO — F: Jake Desjardins (6-8, Sr.) and Kennedy Koehler (6-6, Jr.); G: Trey Hurlburt (5-9, Jr.), Nick Davis (5-9, Jr.) and Bryce Savoy (6-0, Jr.).
Admission: $10 for adults, $5 for students and $3 for seniors. Carson is sending a rooter’s bus to the game, and the school is covering the $5 admission for students who go to and from on the bus.
Every team has a blue-collar guy, a player who does all the little things on the basketball court that only get noticed by purists.
For Carson High’s newly crowned regional champions, that guy is Jace Keema.
The 6-foot junior leads the team in floor burns and taking charges. And, he has led the team in assists seven different times this season to go along with his 5.0 scoring average.
“That’s very fair (assessment),” Keema said before Monday’s practice in preparation for Thursday’s state semifinal game at 8 p.m. against Coronado at Lawlor Events Center. “I take pride in doing whatever helps the team.”
“Jace gives us hard work and leadership,” said teammate Cody Azevedo. “He’s always diving on the floor for loose balls and he takes charges. He does all the dirty work.”
While Tez Allen, Asa Carter and Jayden DeJoseph have gotten the lion’s share of attention, Keema has quietly turned in solid performance after solid performance. He ranks third on the team in both assists and rebounds.
“He almost always gives up size to the guy he’s guarding, but he’s not afraid,” Carson coach Carlos Mendeguia said. “He’s gone up against guys that are 6-6, and he gives it his all. He’s truly a utility player for us; a guy who can do it all.
“Oh yeah, I think football helps. I’ve seen Asa and Jace takes charges. They are used to the physicality. They take a hit and get right back up and keep playing. Playing football definitely helps.”
“Football definitely helps a lot with that,” said the CHS three-sport standout. “I have a sense where I’m at (on the floor when taking a charge) and knowing what the ball-handler is going to do and getting to the spot.”
And, at the other end of the floor, Keema has made some tough, physical shots this year against much-taller players. You wonder how he was even able to get the shot off without being blocked. His muscle shot with 4:14 left on Saturday gave the Senators a 34-27 lead over Reno. It was part of a game-changing 12-0 run.
Keema can definitely score. He had 11 against Dougherty Valley in the semifinals of the Rail City Classic and he had 14 against Hug. He came up big in one of the victories against Manogue, scoring six of his eight points in the fourth quarter. In the first win over Douglas, he had seven points in a 24-11 third-quarter surge that gave the Senators a 55-32 lead.
“I’m not a guy that has to score 20 a game or I’ll go nuts,” Keema said. “Scoring points is great. If it’s not there I try not to force it. I could be more selfish with the ball, but again I’m looking for guys that have a better shots; better angles.”
“Jace is a good team player,” Mendeguia said. “He’s become a student of the game (over the last two years). We talk about what might be a good shot in the first quarter might not be the best shot in the fourth quarter.”
Keema explained Mendeguia’s comment.
“An open 3-pointer in the first half is different than the same shot in the fourth quarter,” he said. “A lot of it depends on the situation; score of the game.”
So, when he’s not diving on the floor, grabbing a rebound or muscling in a shot from close range, Keema is content to be the distributor.
“I like playing the point,” he said. “Cody and Jared (Rooker) have been doing a great job.”
With Rooker and Azevedo both graduating, Mendeguia will be in the market for a point guard next year.
Who knows, maybe Keema will be considered.