Two days removed from sinking a game-winning free throw with 0.3 seconds remaining against Spanish Springs, Carson’s Rafe King one-upped himself.
With the Senators’ once-15-point lead down to four with less than a minute left, King provided the fireworks, completing a three-point play with 46 seconds left to ice the game.
“They were trying to clog the middle up,” Carson coach Carlos Mendeguia said. “We felt if we could put Rafe at the free-throw line and pull him out at halfcourt, it would create lanes for us. He saw the lane and just took it. … That was huge momentum right there where he got the three-point play and energized our whole team to victory.”
King finished with a game-high 19 points. The senior’s heroics propelled the Senators to a 53-45 victory, punching their ticket to the Division I North region championship for the first time since 2003.
For McQueen, its magic ran out after clawing its way into the playoffs and upsetting top-seeded Douglas during a four-game winning streak.
“For whatever reason, the moment was too big for them,” McQueen coach John Franklin said. “It’s been a great run for them, but tonight they came out a little tight. We couldn’t buy a bucket for five minutes, and it cost us.”
The Lancers came out sluggish in the first quarter, netting their first basket with 2 minutes, 22 seconds left in the period. By then, Carson had already scored 12 points.
“We really emphasized coming out starting games real hot, and that’s one thing we did today,” Mendeguia said. “There’s been a couple of times this year we came out flat, and it’s an uphill battle. We really focused on coming out and getting a good lead.”
McQueen chipped away at the deficit with a 14-7 run to start the final period that drew the Lancers within two possessions. But nine missed free throws ended any hope of a comeback bid.
“There’s certain things you have to go out and be willing to do. You have to step up to the line and knock down two free throws,” Franklin said. “We played tight and that tightness — when you step up to the line, big free throws, big moment, regional championship games — it gets to you a little bit.”
Carson returns to its home floor to host Hug on Saturday. The Hawks won the last meeting, 50-47 on Jan. 2.
However, two consecutive clutch victories from the Senators has injected the squad with confidence to reverse the results.
“I think we’re pretty confident going into this one,” King said. “It’s mainly our intensity that’s getting us wins.”