Hmm, drought or a blue basketball season |

Hmm, drought or a blue basketball season

Column by Steve Yingling, Tahoe Daily Tribune

We’ve all been cornered into making a choice we’d rather not make at one time or another.

You know, the no-win queries like “Dad, who do you love better, my pesky brother or irresistible me. Or dad, who is younger and prettier, Ashley Judd or mom?”

Should area sports fans be backed into a corner this winter and forced to choose between a drought and a difficult basketball season, which catastrophe could the community do without?

Considering the grip basketball has held over this community for the past three decades, one so-so season of snowboarding and skiing could be acceptable.

After all, last year we lived through South Tahoe High’s boys hoopsters missing the postseason for the first time since switching from the Sacramento-area Golden Empire League to the Reno-based Northern Nevada League in 1982-83. To make matters worse, the STHS and Whittell girls teams combined to win eight games while dropping 40.

But the beauty of last winter was watching a blend of veteran and young players at Whittell High mesh and win the school’s first boys division title since the mid-1970s.

No one expected it. The Warriors entered the division tournament in Hawthorne as a third seed. They were supposed to exit the four-team tournament on the first day, but squeaked out a four-point victory over Lovelock.

With a berth in the state tournament secured, Whittell was given as much chance of beating once-beaten Tonopah as Shaquille O’Neal has of sinking 10 straight free throws alone in a gym.

But that was when the Warriors embraced one of sports’ unparalleled qualities. They accomplished the unexpected. They slipped past the Muckers 49-47 and went on to finish third in the state.

It was supposed to be the start of special era for Whittell basketball. Four starters were returning and the team’s best player was only a freshman. But the Warriors experienced an off-season reminiscent of a Super Bowl champion. Instead of free agency depleting the Warriors, it was a transfer, a player deciding not to play and coaching resignations that brought WHS back to the pack.

Unpredictably, the Warriors are starting over under first-year coach Don Amaral. STHS second-year coach Derek Allister and 11th-year WHS girls coach Lindsay Wines are facing similar challenges this winter as they attempt to put their teams on the state map.

Perhaps the best chance for a repeat of what Steve Maltase’s crew did last February is Tim Jaureguito’s STHS girls of summer. After surrendering a large chunk of their summer break to catch up with the rest of the Northern Nevada 4A, the Vikings appear ready to challenge for a postseason spot.

There won’t be much of a learning curve. The Vikings will find out how far they’ve come when they meet defending Northern 4A zone champion and state runner-up Galena tonight in South Lake Tahoe.

But three-year varsity player Beth Hickman wouldn’t have it any other way.

“We might as well start off with the best, but I think we’re going to turn some heads when we play them,” she said.

Season of change

Due to an earlier deadline for sports section pages than in past years, stories on prep basketball games that begin at 7 and 7:30 p.m. will be shorter than in past years.

Our sports staff realizes how important it is for a small-town newspaper to report as much as possible on the local teams, but deadlines must be met so readers can have their paper in hand in time for their first cup of coffee in the morning.

More extensive recaps of the games will be done in feature fashion the following day when it’s necessary.

If you have any suggestions, please feel free to call me at (530) 542-8010.

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