Vikings dethrone three-time defending zone champion Grizzlies
CARSON CITY – Throughout the past two decades there has been little debate South Tahoe has been the king of the Northern Nevada 4A boys basketball.
Galena threatened that reign by winning the past three zone championships, but the Vikings repositioned themselves on top of the heap with a 52-43 title win over Galena on Saturday night at Carson High School.
“We’ve won a few in the 80s, a few in the 90s, and it’s nice to get one in 2000,” said STHS coach Tom Orlich.
It was Orlich’s ninth zone championship in 25 years at the helm of the Vikings, including 16 seasons in the Northern Nevada League.
The Vikings’ next goal is to win the school’s third state championship.
South Tahoe (26-4), the North’s top seed, meets Valley (17-8), the South’s fourth seed, in the fourth state quarterfinal at 8:10 p.m. Wednesday at Lawlor Events Center in Reno.
To reach the zone championship, the Vikings overcame a 10-point halftime deficit to McQueen Friday in the semifinals.
The Reno school was the only team to beat the Vikings on their home court this season. South Tahoe, traditionally a defensive-orientated squad, held McQueen scoreless in the fourth quarter to post a 41-38 win.
Payback had even greater dividends the next night.
“Galena had beaten us two years before in the zone title game, so revenge is the sweetest,” said STHS senior Tim Sprinkles.
After a deliberate start by both teams, the Vikings began to seize control of the tempo late in the first quarter. South Tahoe widened a three-point lead after one period to as many as 15 points in the second quarter.
When reserve forward Chris Ortiz banked in a shot with three Grizzlies surrounding him as the first half expired, the Vikings ran into their locker room with a 27-12 bulge.
But the second half belonged to the Grizzlies, providing another thrilling finish between the schools that have combined to win the past five zone championships.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, regardless of what the score was at the half,” Orlich said.
Behind forward Mike Atkinson and guards Chas Altom and Sam Sikes, the Grizzlies crept to within three points in the final minutes.
“Fortunately we were able to stop their runs before they got real close,” said senior guard John Giannoni III, who led the Vikings with 14 points. “They are a great team, so we just had to make sure we countered their runs as much as possible.”
The first big counterpunch was a 3-pointer by senior wing Andy Butcher with 4 minutes, 36 seconds remaining after Galena trimmed the deficit to four.
Giannoni and senior center Bob Larmore clinched the Vikings’ title with two free throws and a rebound basket, respectively, in the final minutes.
“I lost zone my sophomore year and got it this year. It’s great,” said Vikings senior power forward Travis McCollum, who scored 12 points and was a key cog in holding Galena’s fearsome inside game in check. “This has been one of our goals since summer. It hasn’t quite hit us yet, but it feels great.”
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