South Tahoe saw its first victory of the basketball season snatched away by North Valley on Monday as the visiting Panthers clawed back from a double-digit deficit for a hard-fought 62-56 win.
Coming off a season-opening loss to Incline, South Tahoe jumped ahead early and took a comfortable 35-21 lead into halftime.
North Valley coach Richard Peraldo said he had one locker room message for his team at halftime: Turn up the intensity in the second half.
“Defense makes offense. That’s how it works. Don’t panic, just keep chipping away at their lead,” Peraldo said.
That’s exactly what North Valley did. The Panthers turned up their defense. They started forcing South Tahoe turnovers and snagging rebounds and loose balls.
After trailing by as much as 18 points, the Panthers cut the Vikings’ lead down to seven and closed out the third quarter trailing 43-36.
Halfway through the fourth, North Valley took a 49-48 lead. The latest in a trio of crowd-rousing dunks by Jalil Walker and a 3-pointer by Jordan McGuigan put the Panthers ahead for the first time all night.
Walker and McGuigan fueled most of North Valley’s come-from-behind offense as the Panthers outscored South Tahoe 26-13 in the final quarter.
Walker scored 18 of his game-high 23 pints in the second half, 13 of them in the fourth quarter. McGuigan scored eight of his 17 points in the fourth, including a pair of 3-point baskets.
South Tahoe (0-2) remained within a basket or two of North Valley (2-0) as time ran out, but could never recover its lead.
Jared Fajman and Tyler Hogbin led the Vikings offensively with 19 and 10 points and the team had a wide spread of players contributing points: Dakoda Baca scored seven, Kirby David scored six and Daniel Perez and Harry Moses each scored five.
“I’m very happy with my boys and the effort they put out,” South Tahoe coach Joby Cefalu said of his young squad after the game.
The Vikings have only two returning varsity players. With so many young players, Cefalu predicts the team will take a few lumps early on but improve with every game.
“We had the lead against Incline, the lead against North Valley. Games like that are just going to make us tough and tougher. Now it’s time to learn to put those games away,” he said.
South Lake Tahoe travels to play in the Gold Dust Classic later this week. The team begins conference play Friday, Dec. 13 with a matchup against Truckee.