Castles, Lehmann help Vikings dunk rival Wolverines
Mccallan Castles grabbed a defensive rebound in the paint, looked up court and saw nobody ahead.
The South Tahoe 6-foot-5 senior put the ball on the deck and sprinted up court. The biggest player on the court was also the fastest.
Castles dribbled coast-to-coast and threw down a thunderous two-handed dunk to give the Vikings their biggest lead of the night and put an exclamation point on a 71-55 drubbing of their rival, the Truckee Wolverines.
“It’s the best feeling, everybody’s on their feet, it’s awesome,” said junior teammate Kevin Lehmann about Castles’ dunk. “If he got that last one, the place would have exploded.”
Castles, who missed a one-handed throw down early and a one-handed reverse dunk late, gave a quick flex of his arms as he headed back to play defense with the home crowd cheering wildly. Castles and the rest of the starters were removed from the game a couple of minutes later as first-year head coach David Finnegan cleared his bench with a 23-point lead, 66-43.
“Being one of the tall guys on the court, I usually have a bigger dude on me and lot of them are not as quick as I am,” Castles said. “So sometimes, I’ll just take it right off the defensive rebound because nobody is expecting that from me. The first one, I cocked back and hit it too high, I almost hit the ceiling (ball ricocheted off the rim) with that one. And I didn’t have enough juice left for the reverse.”
Lehmann helped the Vikings get off to a red-hot start. He scored the Vikings first seven points and had 12 of his game-high 20 points in the first period as South Tahoe jumped out to a 26-11 lead.
Lehmann got a couple of early layups off long passes and then hit one of the Vikings nine 3-pointers. He hit another 3 in the second quarter and another moments after the fourth period began.
“We have him as a rim runner, so after the ball is rebounded, he sprints down the floor and we’re trained to look up and pass it deep to him,” Finnegan said. “I think he had the first seven points or something like that. He came out on fire.”
After the first quarter onslaught, Truckee played South Tahoe nearly even for the remainder of the game. The Vikings outscored the Wolverines 17-16 in the second and the teams tied with 11 points in the third.
“We had an excellent first quarter, but once we got that lead, I think our defense mentally checked out,” Finnegan said. “They knew they could win. I loved the early energy, and we scored a bunch of points, but I’m disappointed on the defensive end. Miscommunication, not hustling back, that bums me out. We were getting better and better and I feel like we took a step back today. We’ve got a big game on Friday against Elko here and to see us step down on defense was disappointing. But I can’t complain about the offense.”
Castles hit a 3-pointer in the first quarter but heated up in the second and third periods. He hit three more from long distance and finished with 18 points. In the fourth quarter, he dished four assists and facilitated the Vikings’ 12-5 run to start the period that put the game away.
“Calli is an amazing player, we’re blessed to have him,” Finnegan said. “He’s a team leader, very unselfish, willing to dish to somebody with an easier shot and he’s very coachable.”
Overall, 11 of 12 Vikings on the roster scored points. Peyton Galli drained a pair of 3s and scored eight points, Caleb Moretti added six, Cameron Johnson had five, Russell Valiente had four and Carl Valiente had three. Matt Cain, Bryan Schouten and Dylan Chartraw each made baskets and Devin Chartraw converted a free throw.
Finnegan, who sat on the Vikings bench as an assistant coach for the last three years, said he felt anxious before his first home game as head coach, but after the tip, it went away.
If he got nervous during the game, any chance to spend that energy pacing the sideline went away when the Vikings bench earned a first-half technical foul.
“I had to sit down, I couldn’t do anything,” Finnegan said. “I had to bite my lip because if I got another ‘T’ I would be out the next game. I told my bench to watch their mouths and keep all their comments positive.”
The Vikings (3-3, 2-0 3A Northern League) next will host the defending-league champs, the Elko Indians (5-0, 2-0 3A Northern League) at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 15. The Indians reached the state semifinals last season and prevented the Vikings from winning the league title.
“It was loud in here tonight but it’ll be louder Friday,” Lehmann said. “We need to carry this momentum into the Elko game.”