SOUTH LAKE TAHOE - Defense has always been the Vikings' strong point, but Tuesday they took it to another level.
Maybe it was a good Monday practice, or maybe it was the sting of a recent loss in Incline, but the South Tahoe boys were clicking on the defensive end. It carried the Vikings to a 73-42 win against Truckee at home.
"Our defense has always been consistent, but tonight we just broke them with it," Vikings senior point Brandon Cramer said. "There were a lot of fast breaks, a lot of turnovers, and that's what did it for us."
The Vikings grabbed 19 steals, six of those coming from John Cefalu, and nine deflections.
Their offense was clicking too.
South Tahoe shot 26-of-53 from the field and drained four 3-pointers, a complete turnaround from last week's 14-for-47 field performance in Incline.
With their shots falling and defense firing, the Vikings outscored Truckee in all four quarters.
Cefalu gave the Vikings an early lead with a steal and five unanswered points. Cramer followed up with a 3-pointer, making it eight unanswered points.
Truckee's David Burnham busted up the tear with a 3, but it didn't stall the Vikings' momentum.
South Tahoe built a 19-14 lead in the first, and continued to edge ahead in the second quarter. By halftime, the Vikings had lengthened their lead to 34-24, but were still far from comfortable against a team like Truckee.
"We were worried about a second-half surge because Adam Morgan and (David Burnham) are great players and they made a good run at us up there," South Tahoe coach Chris Proctor said.
The last time these two teams met, Truckee outscored South Tahoe 21-17 in the third quarter to cut the Vikings' lead to 44-42.
On Tuesday, the Wolverines again picked up the intensity in the third, but this time the Vikings were ready.
When Truckee's Graham Millie converted an offensive rebound, South Tahoe's Kyante Wilson responded with a layup. Another 3-pointer from Burnham was followed by a steal that Justin Espiritu drove coast-to-coast.
By the end of the third, South Tahoe had extended its lead to 12 points and the game was turning chippy.
Two of Truckee's top scorers, Morgan and Millie, were sent to the bench in the final minutes on technicals, and South Tahoe went on an unanswered 18-point tear. The Vikings outscored the Wolverines 24-5 to end the game, while Truckee coach Patrick Irvin was ejected with about two minutes remaining.
"We just refocused this weekend. We took a little time to regroup after Incline. It was a tough loss for us," Cramer said, "but this weekend we just focused on fundamentals, and what we needed to do to prepare for Truckee."
All totaled for South Tahoe, Cramer drained a game-high 19 points, with two 3 pointers. He was 4-of-5 on 2-pointers and added two steals. Cefalu led in the steal department, though, with six, and posted seven points. Wilson had 11 and Espiritu 10, including two 3-pointers. Tyler Sharp also contributed six.
"Tyler did an amazing job," Proctor said. "He came into the game and ran the floor like we've been talking about and got a couple good early layups and that's crucial for us."
Morgan and Sean Daniels led Truckee with eight points apiece. Burnham added two 3-pointers.
South Tahoe improved to 12-10 overall, 9-4 in league and 6-3 against the Division I-A. Truckee fell to 8-13 overall, 3-9 in the Mount Rose League and 2-8 against the Division I-A.
UP NEXT: The Vikings will close out the regular season with a home game against Sparks today at 7:30 p.m., and then a South Shore rivalry matchup at Whittell on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. South Tahoe will host its first playoff game at home Tuesday at 7 p.m. against Fernley or Fallon, depending on today's results.
Friday's game against Sparks will be streamed live by Tim Parsons and Paul Middlebrook on KTHO Radio 96.1 FM/590 AM.