Senators play North Valleys for playoff berth |

Senators play North Valleys for playoff berth

Appeal Sports Writer

With only two returning seniors – forwards Zach Weismann and Joe Leatham – and no players over 6-foot-3, the Carson boys basketball team may have looked like fairly easy pickings early on.

But after an 11-17 record in the 2005-06 season and having graduated seven seniors, the Senators have shown they aren’t to be trifled with and fought their way to a 14-13 record this year.

They will face North Valleys tonight in a play-in game to determine the fourth seed in the Sierra League and the right to face High Desert League No. 1 seed Galena in the first round of the Northern 4A regional playoffs on Wednesday.

The two teams will meet at Damonte Ranch High School at 7 p.m.

Carson split its series with the Panthers, taking an 88-84 win on Jan. 19 before dropping the Feb. 2 rematch, 81-67.

Of primary concern for the Senators is North Valleys guard Archie Kovich, who is averaging 32.8 points per game and has connected on a state-record 114 3-pointers on the season.

Kovich, a human highlight reel, scored 35 points in his team’s loss at Morse Burley Gym and torched Carson for 41 more at North Valleys High School.

But the Senators are not without weapons of their own and in Weismann and junior guard Will Holbert, Carson has a pair of guards who can rack up the points in a hurry and when a game is on the line.

In last year’s 43-42 victory over Douglas, Weismann came through with a layup with 1.7 seconds remaining to give Carson its most dramatic win of the season. And while the 6-foot-2 Weismann has had some big games this year, including a 28-point performance in the Senators’ 59-57 win over Reed and a season-high 34 points in a victory over Spanish Springs, the 16-year-old Holbert emerged as a difference-maker during league play.

Holbert averaged a team-high 13 points and seven rebounds during Sierra League play and had a game-high 17 points in a 64-45 non-conference triumph over Fallon.

Holbert, who is as adept at taking it to the basket as he is from the perimeter, had a game-high 21 points and some clutch free throws in a 61-58 league win over Wooster and added 14 in a 57-56 down-to-the wire loss to at Hug on Jan. 13.

The always smooth Weismann and the ultra-competitive Holbert have been getting some help from 6-1 junior guard Caleb Carter, who poured in a varsity-high 20 points in the Senators’ victory over North Valleys and 14 in a win against South Tahoe on the road.

Sophomore guard Matt Rutledge can be counted on to push the ball and find the open shooter offensively and serves to disrupt opponents defensively.

Carson got off to a rough start and endured a horrific night shooting in its season-opener against Laguna Creek (Calif.), losing 48-26, before responding with the win over Reed.

Even though it has had some stinkers – including a 69-41 loss to Hawthorne (Calif.) – Carson has also had some inspired efforts, upsetting 13-1 Shadow Ridge, 69-68, in the Las Vegas Holiday Classic, and its close loss to second-seed Hug, which won its other two meetings with the Senators handily.

Although losing a heartbreaker to the Hawks – a game it played without an ailing Weismann – the Senators got a big night from do-it-all junior forward Rob Valerius (15 points) and what was to be a coming-out party for 6-1 junior forward David Eller, who scored nine points and was a big enough presence in the post to draw some post-game compliments from Hug coach Brian Voyles.

The 6-3 Valerius, who also had a team-high 16 points in a 61-53 win over Dayton, possesses an all-around game, whether it’s muscling in for rebounds on both ends of the floor, dishing out assists or providing a go-to presence in the paint.

While Eller has gotten progressively more involved as the season has developed, 5-10 sophomore forward Paul Cagle has been a steady force down low for the Senators. Although he usually gives up quite a bit in height, Cagle makes up for it with a wide body, a willingness to take it to the hoop and soft touch from the outside.

Senior forward Joe Leatham hasn’t had big numbers, but has contributed strong minutes and at 6-3, buttresses Carson’s big men with his hustle and enthusiasm in the paint.

Junior guards Zach Rispin and Markus Adams bring some sharpshooting and hustle off the bench. And even though junior Jordan Miller and sophomores Steven Fowzer and Kalvin Case haven’t seen significant playing time, they have been available to kill some minutes and plug some holes when needed.

The Senators will need a strong defensive game to contain the always hot-shooting Kovich as well as a well-balanced offensive attack. In their victory over the Panthers, Carson rotated three players on Kovich in an attempt to wear him down and had four players – Holbert (21), Carter (20), Weismann (17) and Valerius (10) – score in double figures, an effort it will most likely need to duplicate tonight if it is to move on to face Galena on Wednesday.

The Grizzlies are led by 6-8 blue-chip forward Luke Babbitt, who is averaging 26.9 points and 10.6 rebounds per game, and point guard J.D. Peters, who Galena coach Tom Mauer has called his most valuable player.

In other opening round games on Wednesday, top-seeded Reno (23-5), led by Olek Czyz (18.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg), will host four-seed McQueen (11-14); No. 2 Hug (23-5), led by Nevada signee Armon Johnson (32.9 ppg, 9 rpg), hosts No. 3 Manogue (17-8); and Reed, the High Desert League’s No. 2 seed, will host Douglas (21-8), seeded third in the Sierra League.

Keith Olson, a Northern Arizona signee, is averaging 18.3 points and 13.5 rebounds per game and will have help from 6-7 Jeff Nady and 6-8 Joe Nady.