RENO - Carson High has been playing for its playoff life the last two weeks, staving off elimination with three straight victories.
The Senators, despite a nice first quarter, finally ran out of steam Monday night.
Matt Nuthall again proved too much for Carson to handle. The shifty left-handed guard scored 26 points and added 10 assists to lead Damonte Ranch to a 79-65 over the Senators in a play-in game to determine the fourth
playoff spot in the Sierra League.
Carson ended its season with a 7-17 overall record, six of those wins coming in league play. Damonte Ranch, meanwhile, moves on to play at Hug tonight in the first round of the playoffs.
"I know people are disappointed (with the record)," Carson coach Bruce Barnes said. "We had our backs to the wall. We could have been out every night, but we fought hard and knocked off Spanish Springs, Wooster and
"It's not about winning just seven games (six that counted in the standings). It was good enough to tie for third place."
The two previous meetings both came down to the wire, but this one was over by the middle of the third quarter.
The loss also wiped out a strong first quarter by the Senators, perhaps their best eight minutes of the season.
Carson shot the ball extremely well out of the gate, connecting on 9-for-16 from the floor. The Senators ran their offense extremely well and played patient basketball to grab a 25-16 after one period.
"I thought we came out ready to play," Barnes said. "We got good shots within the offense and knocked them down."
Carson led by six three different times - 12-6, 16-10 and 18-12 - as Trey Jensen scored nine of his team-high 16 points in the first 4 1/2 minutes of the game. Matt Nolan knocked down a 3-pointer and Matt Cooper contributed a
Damonte didn't play a bad first quarter, knocking down all six of its shots from the field, but the Mustangs turned the ball over eight times, as Nuthall seemed out of control at times.
"They were playing well in the first quarter," Damonte coach Torrey Sheets said. "They got some good shots. I mean we gave up 25 points which wasn't good."
The nice tempo that Carson had established in the first quarter was nowhere to be found in the second quarter. The pace of play quickened, and Carson didn't respond well.
The Senators went 1-for-9 in the first 5 1/2 minutes of the second quarter, as Damonte went on a 17-2 run to take a 33-27 advantage. Nuthall, who scored six in the first quarter, had seven in the surge.
"Matt picked up the pace for us," Sheets said. "He found a lot of guys tonight and shot the ball well."
Barnes said he didn't mind the tempo - at first.
"I don't mind playing fast if things are going well," Barnes said. "You miss two or three shots, though, and its hard to reel guys back in.
"The shots weren't going in. We missed those 8-to-12-footers (that we made earlier)."
It turned into a transition game, which is exactly what Nuthall loves and Barnes hates. Carson had nobody who could stay in front of Nuthall for any length of time, and he spent most of the quarter getting to the basket.
The Senators hung tough, though, going on an 8-2 run to tie the game at 35 with 1:23 left in the half. Chance Quilling led the charge with a couple of buckets, one coming after he stole the ball from Nuthall.
The Mustangs got a three-point play from Lane Armstrong and two free throws by Nuthall to take a 40-35 lead at the half.
Carson stayed cold in the third quarter, going 3-for-13 from the floor. An 11-3 Damonte run, led by Gary Turk's two buckets, enabled Damonte to build a 53-40 lead with 2:50 to go. Carson did cut it back to 10 when Tyler Collins drained two free throws after being fouled on a buzzer-beating attempt from beyond the 3-point arc.
It got worse for the Senators, who were outscored 12-2 in the first 3 1/2 minutes of the final period as Damonte upped its lead to 67-47. Michael Holmes started the surge with a three-point play and Nuthall ended it with a long 3-pointer. Jensen had Carson's only score in that stretch.
"He (Nuthall) was able to break us down on the dribble, and that led to easy layups," Barnes said. "How many did (John) Carlson have? A lot of them were from Nuthall when we had to help out."
Carlson finished with 14 as did Armstrong. Turk also reached double figures with 12. Brian Barnes finished his career with an 11-point effort, while Chris Steele added nine with Quilling and Nolan collecting seven each.