South Tahoe boys claim quarterfinals
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – In the final two minutes of Tuesday’s game, Brandon Cramer ripped the ball from Fallon and sprinted coast-to-coast.
“He just blew through everybody,” South Tahoe coach Chris Proctor said. “He had two guys in front of him. My recollection was at about half court it just seemed he was going to take it and finish it.”
The South Tahoe crowd started chanting “it’s all over,” and it was. Cramer’s layup extended South Tahoe’s lead to 61-49 with two minutes remaining.
South Tahoe used veteran experience in the fourth quarter to silence Fallon’s third-quarter surge, and cement a 66-54 quarterfinal win Tuesday at South Tahoe High School. The win advances South Tahoe to semifinals, and ends a young Fallon team’s playoff run.
“We played some good basketball, but some of our young guys made mistakes at the end and that’s a veteran team. They don’t make mistakes at the end,” Fallon coach Chip Rutledge said. “That’s the beauty of a veteran team. Those guys stepped up at the end and made no mistakes. They’re a heck of a team.”
It was also a heck of a game.
The Vikings and Greenwave were neck-in-neck through the first half.
The boys swapped the lead six times in the first quarter. Fallon’s Niraj Morar and Richmond Laranang both drained 3’s, but South Tahoe’s Cramer hit one back. He ended the quarter with a steal and 3 of his own to give the Vikings a 16-13 lead.
The Vikings could have widened that lead in the second quarter when Fallon stumbled into turnover trouble. Kris DiGrande grabbed four steals and Tyler Sharp forced back-to-back turnovers in the period, but the Vikings bailed Fallon out with fouls.
The Vikings totaled 12 fouls in the first half, which capped their lead to 29-27.
A two-point game, however, wasn’t too worrisome for the Vikings, who are usually a second half team.
“Our goal is to really step up the press in the first few minutes of the second half and see if we can get a momentum swing,” Proctor said.
On Tuesday, though, it didn’t work. Maybe it was Fallon’s youthful stamina or maybe it was the elimination at stake, but the Greenwave was about to play its strongest half.
Fallon went on an unanswered nine-point tear to open the first half. LaDamien Crawely and Beau Marshall pushed Fallon to a 36-29 lead in what are usually South Tahoe’s strongest minutes.
“They’re a young team, but they had a great plan. They really brought a lot of pressure on us in the half court, and we haven’t seen a lot of that,” Proctor said. “They really stepped up and ran that kind of three-quarter, half court press and put us off our game. Just a little wrinkle like that can throw a team off.”
The Vikings were definitely off as they slipped seven points behind in the third, pushing the time barrier of a probable comeback.
But the home crowd hadn’t given up, and neither had Cramer.
The senior started working South Tahoe back into the game. Cramer and Kyante Wilson put up six unanswered points of their own.
“To me, that’s why we play so hard to get a home game. So that things like that fall your way,” Proctor said. “Being down seven, away, in Fallon … I don’t know what the result of that game is.”
Tyler Sharp drove inside to make it 37-37, and the Vikings had gained that swing in momentum.
“I just had a different mindset coming into the game today. It’s my last home game, and so I was just going to take it to the hole and try to get my shot,” Sharp said.
Once the veteran Vikings regained momentum they knew how to build off it.
Cramer hit 12 points in those last eight minutes and John Cefalu added six. The two seniors combined for 18 of South Tahoe’s 22 fourth-quarter points.
“All of a sudden we got a couple great transition turnovers, took it the other way and I felt like we really kind of broke their spirit there for maybe the last four minutes,” Proctor said.
Cramer delivered the final blow with the steal he drove in for a 12-point lead.
“We just turned it around. We were flustered in the beginning, but we just found it within ourselves to turn it around,” Cramer said. “We knew this was it and we didn’t want to go out like this. We knew what was at stake.”
Cramer led the Vikings with 24 points and a nine-of-12 performance from 2-point range. Tyler Sharp was next with 11 points, and Hayden Bronken contributed 7 boards.
“Brandon carried a big load for us for three years in some ways, and he’s really taken the burden well and you saw it tonight,” Proctor said.
UP NEXT: South Tahoe advances to semifinals against Elko (22-3, 8-0) on Friday at Wooster High School. The last time these two teams met back in December Elko won 52-47. The winner of the semifinal game will advance to finals at 2 p.m. Saturday at Wooster High School.