For South Tahoe, it’s full speed ahead to Gridley |

For South Tahoe, it’s full speed ahead to Gridley

After starting the season with an uncharacteristic league loss, South Tahoe High’s boys seem to be back at full throttle, just in time for a visit to the Gridley, Calif., tournament.

South Tahoe meets Gridley in the tournament’s third first-round game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m. today in Gridley. The winner advances to meet the winner of today’s 9 p.m. game, either McClymonds or Vallejo, on Friday.

“I think it’ll be fun, and be refreshing to see new styles of play, and it’ll help us prepare our overall game,” said Orlich, who could capture his 500th win with two victories in the three-day tournament.

The Vikings (4-1 overall, 1-1) proved they can compete in California over the weekend of Dec. 3-4, blowing through three California teams in their hometown Viking Rotary Classic. South Tahoe captured the championship with wins over Bay Area teams Santa Theresa and Soquel, and southern California’s Victor Valley. Even though the Gridley tournament offers stiff competition for the Vikings, their success depends largely on what they do, not what their opponents do.

“It just comes down to how we play,” Orlich said. “If we play well, we should be fine.”

The Gridley tournament offers South Tahoe the opportunity to compete against the best from northern California. The eight teams in the Gridley Invitational had combined for a 25-7 record by Dec. 5. What’s more, McClymonds is the alma mater of NBA legend Bill Russell and current star Antonio Davis, the Chico (Calif.) Enterprise ranked Gridley third in northern California and the Sacramento Bee ranked Sacramento’s Grant Union number one in the city – above even Jesuit, which blew out McQueen last week.

The first among these teams is the tournament host, Gridley. The Bulldogs represent a California division IV school of 500 students, and are a team third-year head coach Bob Brown called “solid.”

“We have a lot more confidence now than we had two years ago,” said Brown, who has started most of his current lineup of juniors and seniors for two years. “We’re a solid team now.”

Gridley just improved its record to 4-0 on the year, on Tuesday, coming back from 23 points down to Marysville in the first quarter to win by 27. That game came on the heels of Gridley’s championship in the Wheatland tournament the previous weekend.

“If we don’t beat Tahoe, we’ll give them a solid game,” Brown said.

Five returning starters give the Bulldogs savvy on the court. The standout among them is 6-7 combo forward Jason Parker, who is drawing interest from colleges in the Big-10, Pac-10 and Conference USA, along with junior guard Brandon Brown. Parker was an all GIBT performer in 1998, scored 42 points in last year’s playoff game against Wheatland and the first-team center for the Northern California section, as well as the MVP of the Wheatland tournament.

“He’s a very solid player, offense-wise,” Brown said. “His defensive game is getting better.”

Gridley runs primarily a man defense, but Brown will use zone when necessary. The squad’s greatest strength is every starter has the ability to score.

“We have five shooters out there,” Brown said. “That’s why we’ve been so successful.”

Like South Tahoe’s team, Gridley’s contains many of the road warriors who play together in club teams throughout the year. While the Vikings must get accustomed to some changes, Orlich isn’t anticipating the differences – like the addition of a 35-second shot clock – will hamper the Vikings.

“I don’t think it’ll really bear a lot on anything because we’re really never going to hold the ball for those 35 seconds,” Orlich said.

South Tahoe and Gridley tip off at 7:30 p.m. today. The winner advances to meet the Vallejo/McClymonds winner at 8:30 p.m. Friday, while the two losers meet in the consolation bracket at 5:30 p.m.

Breakout: lineups

South Tahoe vs. Gridley

7:30 p.m. Thursday

South Tahoe Vikings (4-1) head coach Tom Orlich

G – John Giannoni III, 5-11 senior: Division I recruit scored 25, nine above average, in Tuesday’s win over Reed

G – Matt Williams, 5-10 senior: Shot 4-5 from the floor against Reed

F – Tim Sprinkles, 6-2 senior: Versatile player emerging as South Tahoe’s defensive stopper

F – Travis McCollum, 6-4 senior: Viking Rotary Classic MVP had six assists against Reed in addition to double-double

C – Bob Larmore, 6-7 senior: Durable center helped South Tahoe destroy Reed on boards

Gridley Bulldogs (4-0) head coach Bob Brown

G – Brandon Brown, 6-1 junior: Division I recruit has drawn attention while averaging five points, two rebounds, three assists and three seals a game

G – Thomas Quiring, 6-1 senior: Matches Brown in Steals, and averages 13.4 a game

F – Eric Hoogeveen, 6-4 senior: 13.8 points, six rebounds per game is one of three senior starters

F – Jason Parker, 6-7 junior: Wheatland Tournament MVP averages nearly a double-double with 23.1 points, 9.8 rebounds a game

C – Matt Sligar, 6-5 senior: Made the Wheatland all-tournament team

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