MINDEN - It was Carson High head coach Nathan Tolbert's first rivalry game as a head coach and the same for sophomore guard Madison Preston. No doubt both are glad to get it out of the way.
"I was nervous at first," Preston said.
"I can say my chest was a little tight," Tolbert admitted after the game. "It was a lot closer than it had to be."
Preston may have been jittery in the first half, but she showed calmness beyond her years, pouring in 15 of her 21 points in the final 16 minutes to help the Senators to a 54-51 win over the Tigers on Friday night in a Sierra League girls basketball game.
Carson improved to 7-2 overall, and will travel to Galena today for an 11:45 a.m. game against the Grizzlies. Douglas fell to 4-5 and faces Wooster today.
Carson almost choked away a 15-point first-half lead, allowing Douglas to climb back to within two at the intermission, 21-19. The Senators scored 10 straight to open the second half and take control of the game against the pesky Tigers, who played hard throughout.
"Slow start; slow start to the second half," Douglas' veteran coach Werner Christen said. "You get down 18-3, you use up so much energy to come back. We can't afford that. We played young tonight. We didn't play good basketball.
"Savannah Smith played well for them. She was the one we concentrated on. (Madison Preston) shot the ball well. That run at the start of the second half was a killer. The girls never quit. They played hard."
It was Preston and Smith, who did the damage in the second half. Smith also scored 21 points, including 14 in the second half.
Smith got the ball rolling in the second half with a 3-pointer to make it 24-19, Douglas turned the ball over twice and missed a shot from the field on its next three possessions. Preston knocked down two free throws, and following another Douglas miscue, Smith scored on a nice drive to the basket for a 28-19 advantage.
Douglas missed two shots on its next possession, and moments later leading scorer Diana Regalado picked up her fourth foul and had to come out. Preston drained a 3-pointer to complete the surge.
"She (Preston) was on fire tonight," Tolbert said. "If I gave out game balls, she'd have one."
"Coach always tells me to look at the basket first," Preston said. "He tells me if the ball doesn't fall to keep shooting. I saw my openings and took the shots."
Smith scored on a three-point play to make it 34-21, and after Douglas' Katie McCullough scored with 2:29 left, Preston knocked down another 3-pointer for a 37-23 lead. Douglas scored the last two baskets of the quarter to make it 37-27 entering the final eight minutes.
Douglas cut Carson's lead to 42-35 on baskets by Corynne Millett and McCullough, but an 8-4 run by the Senators got the lead to 50-39 with 3:30 remaining. Carly Bachmann scored on back-to-back possessions and Preston added a 3-pointer.
Douglas, or rather Millett wouldn't go away. Millett knocked in two 3-pointers to get the Tigers to within 53-48 with 49 seconds left. She finished with 12, all in the second half.
"Corynne is young. She is only a sophomore," Christen said. "If she can get her feet and brain together she's OK."
Preston clinched the game with a free throw with 6 seconds remaining.
"Douglas played hard and didn't let down," Tolbert said. "We got the big lead, and we had a level of comfort. That tends to happen to us. We let people back into games. We have to get that killer instinct."
Indeed. This one looked like a blowout, as Carson went on a 9-0 run to open the game and led 13-3 after the first quarter.
A 3-pointer by Smith and a baseline shot by Gina Peacock made it 18-3 with 6:50 left in the half. Douglas, led by McKenna Kynett, outscored Carson 16-3 the rest of the half.
"I think we got a little tired," Preston said.