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PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: Defense carrying Carson City-Crystal

Carson City-Crystal Senior Tori Christiansen (14) tries to pull a rebound down before it goes out of bounds against Montabella Friday, Jan. 10, 2014. (Sun photo by KEN KADWELL/@KenKadwell).

Carson City-Crystal Junior Mikayla Duflo (11) tries to drive by Montabella's Taylor Smith (23) at Carson City Friday, Jan. 10, 2014. (Sun photo by KEN KADWELL/@KenKadwell).

Defense has been the name of the game for the Carson City-Crystal girls basketball team this winter.

And to say that head coach Larry Farmer’s 1-3-1 zone is stifling opponents would be an understatement.

The Eagles have not allowed more than 39 points in a game, holding seven opponents to under 25 points and five opponents to under 20 points.

In a win over Montabella on Jan. 10, the Eagles did not allow a single made field goal and held the Mustangs off the scoreboard in the first half in a 26-8 victory.

That kind of defensive performance has the Eagles off to an 8-1 overall record and a 4-1 start in Mid-State Activities Conference action.

“I would certainly say that defense is our strength,” Farmer said. “Usually, your defense gives you the opportunity to win games, and that’s especially true against the high-powered teams that we’ve faced this year.”

Despite all the success and attention his program has garnered in recent years, Farmer tends not to look at the big picture.

“I think coaches tend to look at their seasons differently than everyone else. I try and look at it one possession at a time and one game at a time, and we’re always looking at getting better because that’s just who we are by nature,” he said. “There’s been a lot of positives so far this season, but you just want to keep them growing and peaking at the right time.”

Championship hardware

Over the last two seasons, the Eagles have claimed at least a share of a Central Michigan Athletic Conference and MSAC title, and a pair of Class C district championships.

Farmer says the accolades have come from the dedication of his upperclassmen.

“Over the last two years, the girls have won two districts, two conference titles and put together a lot of wins, and I think that’s a testament to the two seniors that I have and Mikayla (Duflo),” he said. “It’s satisfying to see the program do well. To go from where we started to where we are now, it just shows you how much time and effort these ladies put in to make themselves better.”

Heart and soul

The heart and soul of this team the last three seasons can be found with its upperclassmen. Seniors Tori Christiansen and Mackenzie Geister, along with junior Mikayla Duflo, have been the faces of this program.

Duflo, a 2013 Associated Press Class C Special Mention All-State selection, is one of the best 3-point shooters in the area, while Geister, a 2013 MSAC Second Team honoree, is the team’s go-to forward. A 2013 MSAC First Team selection, Christiansen has played the 1-3-1 zone perfectly for Farmer. All three have played their entire high school careers with Farmer and the varsity program.

“We have three very experienced players in Geister, Christiansen and Duflo, and then we’re trying to work in some inexperienced players in the lineup. The biggest thing that we’re trying to do is to work the younger players up to the experienced level of where our older players are at,” Farmer said.

Junior Tia Jolls and sophomore Jenna Schneider are Farmer’s fourth and fifth starters, and both are making the progress that Farmer is looking for.

“I think our fourth and fifth starters have to play well and be ready to make plays, and I think that’s something that has been the theme for them as they continue to progress,” he said. “Hopefully, this will be a long season for us and that they’ll have that experience of playing in some games.

“Most of these girls have been in the big games and they’ve been in some close losses, so they know what it’s like to win or lose, but they also know that there are no guarantees in basketball. Basketball is a game that is full of upsets and things that go crazy. I’ve always told these girls that I’m proud of them. I’m happy to see them grind out those wins.”

Focused at home

Like many coaches, Farmer is focused on getting the most out of his players, and not the big picture in terms of conference and postseason titles.

“I don’t like to look at what we may or may not win. Like I said, I like to just take the season by one possession and one game at a time, and I think if we do that, something good will come out of it,” he said. “It’s great for the players and the fans to have those conference and district titles, but coaches are usually just focused on the day. I’m always focused on what we did or did not do well so we can then work on those things in practice.

“Our goal is to try and control what we can do. If we put out there our best effort, that’s great. If we lose by putting on our best effort, that’s fine, because we played our best and we know that.”

MSAC clash

Like a year ago, the MSAC crown could very well be decided by Carson City-Crystal and Sacred Heart Academy again this week when the Eagles travel north to Mt. Pleasant on Thursday. With the Irish winning the series opener, 34-23, back on Dec. 6, and entering Thursday’s contest with a 4-0 league mark, the Eagles will have one final push at a conference title, barring an upset.

“Damon (Brown) is a great coach and he’s got a great team. When we play again, it will be great for the both of us. We push them and they push us, and I think we’ll both be better from having the experience of playing each other again,” Farmer said. “This has really developed into the league rivalry that everyone wants, so I’m looking forward to Thursday.”

Last Updated: 1/18/2014 7:02:15 PM EST

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