Senators’ grit in close games key to success
When Carson High basketball coach Carlos Mendeguia assembled his team in November, he truly had no idea of what to expect.
“We didn’t see them a whole lot this summer,” Mendeguia said a day after his team’s thrilling 54-52 overtime win over Douglas. “The commitment level wasn’t as good as in previous years. To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect.
“I knew we had decent size, probably better than we’ve ever had. We had guys that worked hard. We had speed and we were athletic. It was just unknown until we got on the court.”
The on-court performance has been a pleasant surprise. Carson is 7-2 in league and 12-4 overall heading into Friday’s home match-up against second- place Galena, which knocked off Damonte Ranch by 23 points on Tuesday. Carson has won six games by four points or less, which should help the Senators come regional playoff time.
“I think any of the eight teams that make it to the playoffs can get to state,” Mendeguia said. “This is one year where a No. 1 could lose to a No. 4 on the other side in the first round. There are always some games that you win that you don’t think you can get, and there are games that you lose that you think you should get.
“This year there is more parity than we’ve had since I started helping Bruce (Barnes) coach. It’s a dogfight every single game. Look around the league. Last week every single game was decided by four points or less. We don’t have any big stars. There is no Luke Babbitt, Armon Johnson, Olek Czyz or Hunter Meyers. There are no D-1 prospects; no Pac-12 guys.”
Forward Alan Cohen agreed.
“I think we can compete (for a state spot),” he said. “Anybody can beat anybody this year. I think we have a good chance to go. It’s definitely a key if we can get a home game and get a good crowd behind us. Right now we’re in good shape to get a home game in the first round.
“At the beginning of the year I didn’t think we’d be this good. I expect us to have a good season now.”
Point guard Dilyn Rooker said it’s important for the team not to get too far ahead of itself. There are seven games left in the regular season.
“This year we have to go game by game and see how it plays out,” Rooker said. “I would say yes, I’m surprised we’ve done so well. Last year we had Rafe (King) and Matt (Nolan). This year we don’t have any big-name guys. We have a bunch of Austin Shaffers and Kyle Dennings, guys who work super hard to get the job done.”
Mendeguia said that’s been a plus. A year ago, teams could game plan for Rafe King and Matt Nolan, and containing them would usually mean a win. The younger players would usually defer to King and Nolan, and more often than not the duo would come through.
“We don’t have anybody that averages 20 a game,” Mendeguia said. “We do have three or four guys that can score in double figures. I think it makes it more difficult to scout us and prepare for us.
“We are playing a lot more team basketball. These guys play well together; they’re more patient. That’s one of the major differences.”
It’s a team that boasts only two double-digit scorers, Cameron Price and Kyle Steele, both returnees from last year. Cohen reached double-digits in scoring against Douglas, but his scoring has been up and down. Kyle Denning has had some good scoring games, and ditto for Asa Carter. This is a team that on any given night needs different people to step up, and thus far that’s happened.
The trend needs to continue for the Senators to be successful.