South Tahoe boys b-ball aims to contend for league title in 2016-17 season behind talent and experience | TahoeDailyTribune.com

South Tahoe boys b-ball aims to contend for league title in 2016-17 season behind talent and experience

STHS Boys Basketball 2016-17 Regular Season Schedule

Dec. 1-3 Gold Dust Tournament

*Dec. 6 vs. Fernley, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 10 vs. Union Mine, 6 p.m.

*Dec. 13 vs. Dayton, 7:30 p.m.

*Dec. 16 at Fallon, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 20 at Foothill, 7 p.m.

Dec. 26-29 San Pedro Pirate Shootout

*Jan. 6 vs. Truckee, 7:30 p.m.

*Jan. 13 vs. Sparks, 7:30 p.m.

*Jan. 14 at Lowry, 2:30 p.m.

*Jan. 20 at Spring Creek, 7:30 p.m.

*Jan. 21 at Elko, 2:30 p.m.

*Jan. 24 vs. Fallon, 7:30 p.m.

*Jan. 27 at Fernley, 7:30 p.m.

*Jan. 28 at Dayton, 2:30 p.m.

*Jan. 31 at Truckee, 7:30 p.m.

*Feb. 3 at Sparks, 7:30 p.m.

*Feb. 4 vs. Lowry, 7:30 p.m.

*Feb. 10 vs. Spring Creek, 7:30 p.m.

*Feb. 11 vs. Elko, 2:30 p.m.

*3A Northern League contest

The South Tahoe basketball team last took the court on the stage where it feels the program belongs. During the 2016-17 campaign, the Vikings want to build off of their first state playoff appearance in a half-decade — and have the experience and talent to do exactly that.

“We have a lot of potential,” senior guard Tommy Cefalu said. “If we come together and push each other in practice, everything should pan out as well as planned and we’re going to go far.”

South Tahoe hit its stride at the end of last season, riding a run through the regional playoffs before falling in the state semifinals. The Vikings are the first to point out, however, that their final record of 14-16 was indicative of an up-and-down campaign.

“Our season was by no means a championship season,” said Vikings’ fourth-year head coach Joby Cefalu. “The boys worked hard and we had a tough schedule, but at the end of the day we were [near .500] — and we have a lot to improve on in order to become that championship team.

“It’s the ultimate motivation.”

The Vikings aim for consistency from the start of the 2016-17 season, which they tip off against Central Catholic (Modesto, Calif.) on Thursday, Dec. 1, in the Gold Dust Tournament. South Tahoe wants to get back to state for the second straight year, but the primary focus is contending for a 3A Northern League championship.

“Our main goal this year is to be one of the top contenders in the league and show that last year wasn’t a fluke run,” senior guard Noah Jackson said. “It’s the same core group of guys and we’re ready to get the season going.”

“We plan on being back at state this year,” added senior guard Harry Moses-Chakmakis.

On the way to a third-place finish in league last season and an eventual state appearance, South Tahoe didn’t have a winning streak longer than three games. The Vikings finished 9-7 in league play — including a 2-5 record on Saturdays — and want to improve on that mark this season.

“It’s going to be very important for us to play one game at a time and do the things that we have to do to win those games — not focus on the playoffs, but focus on what’s next,” Joby Cefalu said. “This team could be one of the better teams of the last 15 years at South Tahoe, if they do the things they need to do.”

Despite losing its top two scorers to graduation, the Vikings return eight players from last season, led by seniors Moses-Chakmakis, Cefalu and Jackson. Moses-Chakmakis averaged 10.3 points per game for South Tahoe last season, and is one of a number of scoring threats in the team’s deep, guard-heavy lineup.

“Over the summer we worked hard and figured out how to score without those guys,” Tommy Cefalu said. “We definitely want to spread the ball around and have all of us score more.”

Seniors Zen Contestable, Dylan Gooding, Garret Harley, Ridge Merkley and Tyler Ritter round out South Tahoe’s group of returning players — all coming back with a year of varsity experience. The Vikings’ varsity newcomers are highlighted by familiar face from the gridiron.

Junior McCallan Castles had an immediate impact for the South Tahoe football team during its state playoff run in the fall, and the 6-foot-5-inch athlete brings size and athleticism to the hardwood. In two varsity seasons with Berthoud High in Colorado, Castles averaged 11.9 points per contest — and has an explosive element to his game that should translate well in 3A Northern League.

“He’s going to be a definite help to our team,” Joby Cefalu said of the two-sport standout that picked up a handful of Division I scholarship offers during football season.

Juniors Ruzzell Valiente, Peyton Galli and Devin Chartraw are up from junior varsity along with sophomore Kevin Lehmann — and all will provide an immediate boost for South Tahoe. The Vikings’ coach said every player on the roster has the chance to make an impact for the team this season.

“Everybody out here is competing for a spot,” Joby Cefalu said. “There’s not a player out here that has a definitive spot, and the kids are putting pressure on each other to work hard.”

South Tahoe quickly jumps into league play, opening its 3A Northern League slate Tuesday, Dec. 6, at home against Fernley. Three-time defending league champion Elko has run the table in league the past two seasons, and the Vikings and Vaqueros are both threats to upend the Indians along with Lowry, Fallon and Sparks.

“It’s about the entire team effort,” Jackson said. “If we all fill our roles and do what we need to do personally, then we’ll come together as a team and do what we need to do collectively.”