TRUCKEE - The Truckee gym was rocking Tuesday night.
With Mount Rose League foes Truckee and South Tahoe engaged in a spirited battle, fan support reached a feverish pitch when Truckee seniors Graham Millie and Adam Morgan ripped the net with back-to-back 3-pointers before the end of the third quarter, shaving a 13-point deficit down to just two, 44-42.
The decibel level steady subsided from there, as the larger, fresher-legged Vikings pulled away from the exhausted Wolverines in the fourth quarter to earn a 64-49 win.
"We've had a hard time with putting teams away this year," said South Tahoe coach Chris Proctor. "Not that we thought we could put away Truckee that early. They made it a great game. They're always going to be a tough game. On any night, anyone in this league can win."
The Wolverines, playing without injured starter Nick Oberriter and with just eight players total, tried to stay with the Vikings after climbing back into the game behind four 3-pointers in the third quarter.
But South Tahoe guard Justin Espiritu drained a 3-ball to start the fourth quarter, and after a bucket in the post by Morgan, 6-foot-4 bruiser Cale Backinger put back an offensive rebound and Brandon Cramer connected on both ends of a 1-and-1 to give the Vikings some breathing room, at 51-44.
Truckee senior David Burnham then stripped the ball from Backinger and drove coast-to-coast, but senior forward Kyante Wilson followed with consecutive baskets in the paint and a free throw to stretch the lead to 10, at 56-46. Cramer and Hayden Bronken combined to hit all six of their free throws in the final minutes to ice the game.
"We got back in it. We were just undersized and didn't have the horses," said Truckee coach Patrick Irvin. "But we still competed. The third quarter we played great. We just ran out of gas at the end."
South Tahoe took control early in the contest.
Cramer opened the game with a 3-pointer. Following a fast-break layup by Truckee guard Aaron Pado, Wilson muscled in consecutive shots in the post and Bronken scored on a fast break for a quick 9-2 lead. Espiritu hit a 3-pointer late in the first quarter and again to start the second, while Backinger and Bronken scored inside to extend the Vikings' lead to the largest margin of the night, 22-9, after a 7-0 run to start the quarter.
The Wolverines refused to go down without a fight, though. They scrapped back with nine consecutive points to trim the lead to four, 22-18, as Burnham hit from mid range, Sean Daniel followed with a hard drive to the hoop, Morgan put back his own miss and Burnham made one of his two 3-pointers of the second quarter.
The Vikings carried a 27-21 lead into the half, which they extended to 33-23 early in the third quarter after a 6-0 run. Daniel converted a three-point play to key the Wolverines' comeback attempt, which was aided by two 3-pointers by Millie.
After expending a significant amount of energy to get back in the game, Truckee players looked exhausted to start the fourth, particularly Morgan, who dripped with sweat after giving it his all for the better part of the 24 minutes. "That was a heck of an effort by No. 1," Proctor said.
"We were just a little tired in the fourth quarter," said Millie, who finished with 11 points. "They had a couple of guys who hit some shots, and they did a good job of rotating players in so they had fresh legs. We also missed some baskets down the stretch."
Wilson led the Vikings with 15 points, while Espiritu and Cramer each scored 12 and Backinger had 10. Morgan scored a game-high 16 points and pulled down 11 rebounds for Truckee, and Burnham added 15 points.
Truckee fell to 9-9 overall and 2-3 in Mount Rose League play. South Tahoe improved to 9-8 overall and 3-0 in league.