Next stop state: South Tahoe, Whittell boys basketball teams hope postseason road ends with state championships
At the NIAA State Basketball Championships this weekend, the South Shore will be well represented on the hardwood. Both South Tahoe and Whittell will compete for state championships in the Reno area starting Friday, Feb. 26, needing two wins in two days to end their seasons on top of Nevada.
“It’s exciting that both schools from the South Shore are in it,” South Tahoe head coach Joby Cefalu said. “We are a community and it is special to be in the state tournament with them. I certainly hope we’re both playing for championships on Saturday.”
“I think it’s absolutely the greatest thing,” Whittell head coach Phil Bryant added. “I realize there’s a rivalry, but they’re in a different division. They play in a different league and why wouldn’t we wish the best for them? We’re all a single community.”
South Tahoe is making its first state tournament appearance in five seasons in Div. I-A, and aims for the third title in program history. Whittell is in the Div. IV State tournament for the third straight season, and it seeks a second championship in three years.
“Basketball at the lake isn’t a joke,” Warriors senior Palmer Chaplin said. “Schools from the valley and schools from Reno look over us, but they have to understand we’re here to play.”
Before heading to high school in South Lake Tahoe and Zephyr Cove across the state line, Vikings and Warriors players often found themselves as teammates. During middle school, Chaplin and Warriors senior Colin Buchholz formed a starting five with South Tahoe juniors Tommy Cefalu, Noah Jackson and Harry Moses-Chakmakis on club teams that enjoyed successful summers.
“When we went our separate ways it was tough,” Chaplin said. “To see them reach that level in their league and division is impressive and it’s nice to see.”
Both teams begin their quest for a state championship Friday, Feb. 26, against Las Vegas opposition — South Tahoe plays Desert Pines at Reno High while Whittell faces Adelson School at Reed High. And each wants to end up hoisting the trophy the following afternoon at Lawlor Events Center on the campus of University of Nevada, Reno.
“It’s really special that both teams are going and have the opportunity to bring back a banner this year,” Cefalu said. “We both have steep hills to climb and the competition is going to be tough.”