Familiar playoff foe awaits Vikes tonight
Two schools that weren’t given much of a chance of excelling in 2006 will square off in the quarterfinals of the Northern Nevada 4A Regional boys’ basketball tournament tonight in Sparks.
South Tahoe, which is returning to the postseason for the first time since 2000, will meet an old playoff foe in Reed, a school that found a way to replace four senior starters prior to the season.
“We’re really excited,” said South Tahoe junior K.J. Allister. “At times we showed really good teamwork and that we can beat anyone on any given night. But it’s always hard to go into somebody else’s place and get a win.”
Neither team would appear to have a decided advantage going into the 7 p.m. elimination game at Reed High School. The Vikings and Raiders didn’t meet during the regular season. In fact, the schools haven’t met since the Vikings last qualified for the playoffs.
“They have some really nice players who do some really nice things,” said Paul Gray, the Raiders’ coach since 1989. “I can see why they’ve had all of the success they’ve had. They are going to be a very good opponent for us.”
The Vikings (15-11 overall) finished third in the Sierra Division, posting an 8-6 record. Seniors Jared Wood, Conor Freeman and Joel Keegan provided the leadership and consistent scoring the Vikings were missing in previous seasons.
Reed, on the other hand, relied on a variety of players to finish runner-up to Galena in the High Desert League with a 9-3 record. Seven players took turns leading the Raiders in scoring while they compiled a 19-8 overall mark.
“The strength of our team is the depth we have,” Gray said. “We have a lot of guys who are interchangeable and we use a lot of guys.”
The Raiders have a mix of experience and youth. Two sophomores start at key positions – 5-foot-10 Omarri Williams at the point and 6-7 Nick Dixon in the post. Senior forward Brad Petersen is a three-year varsity member and two-year starter. The other starters are seniors Kyle Walters and Todd Merchant.
The unit, along with a five-player rotation off the bench, has quickly gelled, allowing the Raiders to overcome the mass exodus of seven seniors from a 27-3 club a year ago.
“We lost a lot of players, a lot of points,” Gray said. “People were wondering where are scoring was going to come from. But the kids who returned put in a lot of time and worked real hard.
“It’s just a good all-around team. We’re not dependent on any one guy.”
The same can be said about South Tahoe. Although Wood, Keegan and Freeman have carried the scoring load, the Vikings’ offensive structure allows all five players on the court to get touches and shoot if a good attempt is available.
South Tahoe also has a strong bench with sophomore Vince Capellino and junior Michael Anstett proving that they could be capable starters as well.
“I feel pretty confident in our depth,” said STHS coach Derek Allister. “I think we have some kids off the bench that could surprise them. Vinny and Michael are capable of putting up 10 to 12 points on a given night.”
Where the Vikings and Raiders really differ is their offensive approach. Both teams have a number of guys who can shoot from beyond the arc, but South Tahoe is the more patient of the teams and will try to establish a post game.
“They emphasize uptempo and shooting the three,” Allister said.
Gray took it upon himself late in the season to scout the Vikings. When the Vikings continued their playoff push along with Douglas, Carson and North Valleys, Gray became concerned about knowing too little about a possible regional opponent. He had either seen or played against the other three schools.
“The team we hadn’t seen was South Tahoe. That doesn’t mean anything to the kids, but coaches get a little edgy about that kind of thing,” Gray said. “I felt like I had to get out and see what South Tahoe was all about.”
Gray first saw the Vikings when they rallied from behind in the final minute to upset Douglas 53-48 Feb. 3 in Minden. Not wanting to base his scouting report on one game, Gray made the trip up to South Lake Tahoe last Friday when Hug completed its unbeaten Sierra Division season with a 68-50 victory over the Vikings.
“They are good at what they do,” Gray said. “Keegan is a nice complement to the players they have, and they have guys who can knock down shots from the perimeter and they have guys who can get to the basket.
“They do a nice job of running their offense. This is not a game we’re overlooking. We know that we need to be ready to play.”
Reed’s long layoff could be a factor tonight. While South Tahoe last played on Friday, Reed hasn’t been in a game since a 69-48 throttling of Fallon last Tuesday.
“I was glad to have a little bit of time off right at the end of the season,” Gray said. “It’s also been beneficial for us in getting prepared for this game (tonight).”
Notes: During the late 1980s and 1990s, Reed and South Tahoe met often in the postseason, including several regional championship games. “Those were some fun games. It was nice to see when I came up on Friday that the gym was packed. It brought back some good memories and some bad memories, too,” Gray said … The winner of tonight’s game will play the Hug-McQueen survivor on Thursday night at 7 at Carson High School … Teams need to win at least two games to qualify for next week’s state tournament.
Starting lineups …
SOUTH TAHOE (15-11): Reid Cocking, 5-9, junior guard; Conor Freeman, 5-11, senior guard; Joel Keegan, 6-8, senior center; K.J. Allister, 6-1, junior forward; Jared Wood, 6-5, senior forward.
REED (19-8): Omarri Williams, 5-10, sophomore guard; Todd Marchant, 6-0, senior guard; Nick Dixon, 6-7, sophomore center; Kyle Walters, 6-3, senior forward; Brad Petersen, 6-3, senior forward.
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