South Tahoe and Whittell basketball players had a season of hard work campaigning for them when the All-League vote rolled around this year.
"Typically, I attend these meetings with stats in hand to make an argument for one or two of our team's best players," South Tahoe coach Chris Proctor said. "What was great about this year was that a lot of the other coaches suggested that these Tahoe players deserved recognition."
The All-League awards were voted on by coaches of the mixed-division Mount Rose League, which includes Division III and Division I-A schools around the lake, plus Sparks. The coaches determined a separate first team for the two divisions, while the two divisions were combined for the second team and honorable mention selections.
A combined 12 players from both high schools made the All-League cut when the roster was released this week. Three players from both South Tahoe and three from Whittell earned first team honors.
Seven South Tahoe players made the Northern Division I-A roster, the most Proctor has seen in his six seasons with the Vikings.
Brandon Cramer, Cale Backinger and John Cefalu were named to first team. Kyante Wilson and Hayden Bronken earned second team status, and Justin Espiritu and Jason Rogers picked up honorable mentions.
Five Whittell players made the Northern Division III roster, among them was freshman Palmer Chaplin who got the first team nod.
Garrett Bronken, Austin Neil and Chaplin were all named first team. While Bryce Bronken earned second team, and Mark Waite grabbed an honorable mention.
The Warriors also posted their first winning season in more than seven years.
"No one expected too much from us, and yet we were competitive every time we were on the floor," Whittell coach Phil Bryant said.
South Tahoe First Team
Cramer led the Vikings, averaging 12.2 points a game, 317 total for the season. He also threw 72 percent from the line.
"Every coach hopes for at least one of him on their team each year," Proctor said.
"He has always stood out to me as a leader, but this year I think he took it to a higher level demonstrating grit and toughness when it was most needed."
In the boy's quarterfinal game against Fallon, Cramer willed the Vikings into the next round of playoffs with a 12-point fourth quarter.
Backinger backed Cramer up. He averaged 9.8 points a game, 195 total, shot 45 percent from the field and had 80 rebounds.
"This year the other coaches felt he was a shoe-in for first team based on how they all spent time preparing for him," Proctor said. "They were also appreciative of his serious attempt to control his emotions during the games (even though they admitted it was their game plan to get him frustrated)."
Cefalu's first team selection was based on more than just numbers.
"We knew how important John was to the team all season, but it became quite apparent at Incline. He is the prototypical "glue" player...keeping it all together for the rest of us," Proctor said. "There should be some type of stat category that would objectify this type of player, but luckily the other coaches understood how important he was to our success and decided to recognize him for it."
Whittell First Team
Garrett Bronken was the calm and dependable engine behind the Warriors this season, and contributed more than nearly 10 points a game suggests.
"Garrett's selection to first team All-League was based on his leadership and his heart," Bryant said. "He can score, defend, and most importantly, he was a positive influence on all his teammates."
Neil was the Warriors top scorer, averaging nearly 20 points a game.
"When he's on, he is as good a scorer as anyone," Bryant said. "His expectations of himself are very high, and he would sometimes let his frustrations carry over to teammates."
But Neil grew up quite a bit on the court this season, Bryant said, and his offensive contribution was a big part of Whittell's winning season.
Chaplin emerged as one of the Warriors best 3-point snipers this season. He posted five 3-pointers in Whittell's playoff game alone. The freshman hit game-winning pressure shots and played beyond his years.
"He was our second leading scorer in league and made tremendous strides as a point guard throughout the year. There is always a great deal of pressure on a point guard and it just increases when you are a freshman. Expectations are high and he delivered," Bryant said.
There is no doubt the freshman will be a big part of Whittell's future.
"He is a confident, dedicated player who has high aspirations to go on to the next level. There is no doubt he will make it," Bryant said.