RENO — Carson High’s boys basketball team passed the first of three consecutive litmus test games with flying colors.
Playing hard-nosed defense, the Senators built a 13-point first-quarter lead against the host Galena Grizzlies and went on to record a 63-52 Sierra League win Tuesday night.
Carson improved to 7-2 in league play, while Galena dropped to 6-3. The Senators have a chance to gain a share of the lead Friday night when they host Manogue, which was knocked off by Douglas.
“That was a tremendous defensive effort, probably one of the best we’ve put forth all year,” Carson coach Carlos Mendeguia said after his club racked up its fifth straight win. “The kids were very focused in practice. They paid attention to the details and stuck to the game plan all night. They played like a senior-laden team.”
The game plan focused on stopping returning Sierra League Player of the Year Zack Lessinger. The 6-7 Galena star did score 17 points, but nine of those came at the line. Carson did a good job of eliminating his touches. Lessinger was inactive the final 6-minutes 25-seconds after picking up his third foul of the game. Galena coach Brian Voyles barked at Lessinger as he walked off the floor. It’s not known whether Lessinger barked back at his coach or whether Voyles was steamed. Either way, Galena had to try and mount a comeback without their best player.
“Galena has got a lot of weapons,” Mendeguia said. “Besides Lessinger, they have Josiah Wood, who easily could have been player of the year last year and they have Noah Peck who can shoot the 3, Zach Williams and Dillon Voyles. You have to pick your poison with them, and we chose the player of the year (Lessinger).”
Peck hit a couple of treys and finished with eight, and Wood scored all six of his points in the fourth quarter.
Credit for the interior defense is shared between Cameron Price, Tez Allen and Jayden DeJoseph, all of whom spent plenty of time bumping around with Lessinger under the basket.
And, Carson had enough offense to get the job done.
The Senators spotted Galena an early 6-2 lead, but Carson went on a 17-0 run over the next four minutes to take a 19-6 lead en route to a 21-8 lead after the first quarter. DeJoseph, Kyle Steele and Asa Carter each had five points in the surge and Price added three. Galena never got closer than seven the rest of the way.
“We wanted to set the tempo right off the bat,” Mendeguia said. “I thought we did a good job throughout the game. We played a solid four quarters of basketball. Been waiting for that all year. I knew we could run our stuff; knew we could score if we were patient.”
Carson maintained a double-digit lead the entire second quarter, despite the fact both Allen and Price picked up their second fouls and went to the bench at various times. Carson did lead 30-14 thanks to two free throws apiece by Price and Steele, but four points by Lessinger and two by Peck chopped the deficit to 32-20.
Steele, who has been erratic in recent games, scored seven of his eight points in the first half and did a nice job handling the Galena pressure.
“Kyle is a gamer,” Mendeguia said. “Anytime there is a big game, Kyle steps up.”
Peck hit a trey to open the second half to make it 32-23, but Carson went on a 10-4 run to open the lead to 42-27. Allen drove the length of the floor for a lay-up, DeJoseph, who scored in double figures for the second straight game (13), added two baskets and Carter contributed a basket and two technical free throws. Carter scored nine of his game-high 19 in the third quarter. Carson led 47-34 after three.
Galena threatened in the final period when it put together a 9-4 run to make it 53-46 with 1:29 remaining. Wood, who was the main threat once Lessinger left the game, knocked down four straight free throws to key the surge.
The only problem for the Grizzlies was they had to start fouling to get Carson to the line, and the Senators hit 10 straight at the line, four each by Carter and Price and two by DeJoseph. The last of the 10 straight made it 62-48.
Price, who scored 11, felt it was a critical win and a good way to start this tough three-game stretch.
“I feel like it was a statement game,” Price said.
And, the senior hopes he and his teammates make another statement on Friday against Manogue.