TAHOE CITY, Calif. - First-year boys basketball coaches Frank Wright and Patrick Irvin were only vaguely familiar with the classic rivalry that is North Tahoe versus Truckee.
Both received a history lesson of sorts Friday night, as the Lakers and Wolverines waged an epic battle reminiscent of the golden years of the North Shore clash.
"That was a fun rivalry game," said Irvin, whose Truckee squad used a late rally to pull off a 46-38 come-from-behind win. "Both teams competed. Our free-throw shooting continues to be horrific, but in the end we turned it on when we needed to and played hard."
Wright also enjoyed the competitive nature of the matchup, despite the final outcome.
"It's back. That's good to see," the North Tahoe head coach said of the historic rivalry, which lost some luster in recent years as the schools' enrollments went in opposite directions, yet remains intact nevertheless. "It's a good relationship. It's a good rivalry. I look forward to it continuing for a long time."
The Lakers nearly sent their large winter homecoming crowd away happy, as they scrapped back from a 15-8 first-quarter deficit to take a 24-21 lead into the half, which they held onto for a good portion of the second half as well.
The Wolverines clamped down defensively after the break, however, holding the hosts to five points in the third quarter as they pulled even on the scoreboard, at 29-all. The teams battled back and forth in the fourth quarter, swapping leads on five occasions to keep their respective fans on the edge of their seats.
Aaron Pado provided the spark Truckee needed, as the senior guard scored seven points off the bench in the fourth quarter, none bigger than a 3-pointer with five minutes remaining that gave the Wolverines a 36-34 lead.
North Tahoe sophomore Mitchell Myers answered with a bucket in the post to tie the score. After about a two-minute scoring drought, Truckee junior Kyle Mello scored inside to put the Wolverines ahead for good with 2:50 left on the clock.
The Lakers had plenty of good looks in the final couple of minutes, but their shots stopped going through the net, and they managed just two free throws the rest of the way.
"We were playing them tough, but our shots stopped falling at the end and they took us down in the last two minutes," said North Tahoe junior point guard Alex Tyler, who finished with a team-high 12 points. "I credit them (the Wolverines) for playing good defense."
The Lakers' 38 points marked their lowest-scoring output of the season.
"We had our worst shooting night of the year. But we had our chances," Wright said. "They (the Wolverines) deserved to win. It was a fun game though. I thought it was very even."
As they've done many times this season, the Lakers started out slowly before heating up in the second quarter. After falling behind 15-8, they climbed back in it with aggressive drives to the basket by Tyler, Myers and senior forward Colin Spencer, who scored seven points from the free-throw line in the second quarter. Tyler scored 10 points in the first half to lead the way.
Truckee senior forward Adam Morgan, who finished with a game-high 13 points, put in an offensive rebound to start the third quarter, and the Wolverines went on to outscore the Lakers 23-14 the remainder of the contest to put it away.
"We were kind of tentative all game for some reason," Irvin said. "We had a really bad second quarter, but we were able to recover."
Pado scored 12 points and created several turnovers to help lift Truckee to the victory, while Mello contributed eight points. Spencer and Myers each scored 10 for the Lakers.
Truckee is now 8-7 overall and North Tahoe, which went on to defeat Whittell by one point Saturday, is 7-8 overall.