TAHOE CITY — The Lakers could not get away from their zone defense fast enough Friday night.
Junior guard Dominic Valles and visiting Battle Mountain jumped on North Tahoe early with a barrage of 3-pointers before the Lakers countered with a more effective man-to-man defense.
But by that time the damage was done, and despite a valiant third-quarter comeback, the Lakers never heated up offensively in a 51-37, league-opening loss.
“We kind of got that cushion early. They were in a zone and we were able to hit some shots,” said Battle Mountain coach Roger Wallock. “North Tahoe made a good adjustment going to man-to-man. Hats off to North Tahoe. They work hard.”
The Longhorns took an early 13-6 lead after consecutive 3-pointers by Daniel Itza and Valles, who hit four of his five 3s in the first half en route to a game-high 23 points.
That prompted a timeout by North Tahoe coach Frank Wright and an adjustment to a man defense, with the sticky-defending Alex Bourriague on Valles.
The Lakers, meanwhile, could not muster a bucket outside of the paint — they finished 0-for-the-game from beyond the free-throw line.
“We just couldn’t put the ball in the basket,” Wright said.
Battle Mountain took advantage, building its lead to 13 points, at 28-15, by late in the second quarter.
The score might have gotten out hand had it not been for Bourriague. With his team ice-cold, the speedy senior guard repeatedly torched the Battle Mountain defense in the first half with slashing drives to the hoop. He scored all nine of the Lakers’ points in the first quarter and 15 of their 19 points in the first half.
“He lights us up. He’s a spark plug who makes everybody else play harder,” Wright said. “He’s fun to watch, and he’s just starting to put it all together.”
North Tahoe, which scored the final four points of the half to cut the lead to 28-19, came out energized in the third quarter. After back-to-back fast-break layups by senior Alex Tyler in the opening minutes, the Lakers pulled to within six points, at 29-23.
Big men Mitchell Myers and Nick Joslin kept the score close with tough play in the post, but the Lakers could not close the gap as the Longhorns finished the third quarter with a 42-33 lead.
The Lakers’ offense dried up completely in the final period, as they managed three points in the quarter and went scoreless over the final seven minutes.
“That was a game we needed at home,” Wright said. “It’s going to be a tough league.”
Aside from Bourriague, who scored all 15 of his points in the first half, Tyler, Myers and Joslin scored six points apiece. Daniel Itza had 13 for Battle Mountain.
SHORTHANDED LAKER GIRLS FALL
The Laker girls held Battle Mountain to just six points in the first quarter. But they could only hold the Longhorns in check for so long.
The visitors hit their stride by the second quarter, and North Tahoe never got on track in a 45-21 loss.
“We have a bunch of good athletes; we just need to work on becoming basketball players,” said North Tahoe coach Shaun Chilkotowsky. “It goes back to fundamentals.”
The Lakers were at a disadvantage from the start against a big and fundamentally sound Battle Mountain team, as they played without starting point guard Sara Trimm and junior forward Savannah App.
“Having two starters out hurt,” Chilkotowsky said.
Behind a game-high 21 points by senior center Hannah Hale, Battle Mountain held North Tahoe scoreless in the first quarter and to six points in the first half while taking a 22-6 lead into the break.
Senior guard Angela Wood, who played point guard in place of Trimm, led the Lakers with six points. Sage Chador scored five points in her return from an ankle injury, and freshman Camryn Turner scored four.