South Tahoe boys b-ball falls to Desert Pines in Div. I-A State semifinals, ending postseason run
On the state stage for the first time in a half-decade, the South Tahoe boys basketball team executed its defensive plan to slow an opponent loaded with size and talent. Ultimately, however, the Vikings couldn’t produce enough offense to keep their season alive.
North second seed South Tahoe fell to South top seed Desert Pines (Las Vegas) 53-33 in the Div. I-A State semifinals Friday, Feb. 26, at Reno High. For the Vikings, the defeat brought a bitter end to a stellar campaign.
“It’s quite bitter — we hung in there defensively, unfortunately we just couldn’t get the ball to drop,” Vikings coach Joby Cefalu said. “We were happy to get here, but never satisfied.”
South Tahoe (14-16) opened the scoring 38 seconds into Friday night’s game when senior Blake Blocker converted a layup. For the rest of the contest, the Vikings rarely found it that easy against Desert Pines (22-8).
“They are a very defensive-minded team, and they help well,” Cefalu said. “We really worked hard against what they were going to do trapping, and it was never a factor — the shots just didn’t go in.”
The Jaguars scored the next 11 points, and had a 14-7 lead after the first quarter. South Tahoe stayed with Desert Pines in the second quarter, and trailed 26-16 at halftime.
“We were only down 10 at half and I felt very confident we’d close that gap,” Cefalu said.
In the third quarter, an extended offensive drought kept the Vikings from threatening MaxPreps’ No. 8-ranked team in Nevada. South Tahoe held the Jaguars to three points in the first five minutes of the second half, but scored only one point during that stretch — a free throw from Blocker.
“We had five or six empty possessions before I called a timeout in the third quarter,” Cefalu said. “If those possessions turn into three or four made baskets, it’s a whole different ballgame — Desert Pines didn’t start out really good in the third quarter either.”
With 1:50 left in the third quarter, South Tahoe made its first field goal of the second half — a 3-pointer from senior Denzel Perez that made it 32-20. But Desert Pines’ Greg Floyd answered from beyond the arc on the next possession, and the Vikings trailed by 15 points as the quarter came to a close.
The Jaguars scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter to end any chance of a South Tahoe comeback. After Floyd hit a 3-pointer that made it 45-23 with 6:28 to play, the Vikings didn’t get closer than 18 en route to a season-ending defeat.
“Basketball is a fickle thing — there are some nights when you can’t miss and other nights that you just barely make it to the rim,” Cefalu said. “A better offensive game and it would have been a different outcome.”
Perez led South Tahoe with 13 points in the loss, while Blocker and junior Tommy Cefalu added five points apiece. In its season finale, the Vikings scored a season-low 33 points.
For Desert Pines, the 6-foot-9-inch Floyd scored a game-high 18 points and hit four 3-pointers while point guard Capri Uzan finished with 16. Since realignment prior to the 2011-12 season, the Jaguars have made four straight state tournament appearances.
“They had size, they had speed — that’s a very good basketball team we just played,” Cefalu said. “That’s a great team and we held them in check for the most part.”
In the Div. I-A State championship Saturday, Feb. 27, at Lawlor Events Center, the Jaguars lost to South second seed Clark (Las Vegas) 43-39. The three-time defending state champion Chargers beat North top seed Elko in the semifinals.
South Tahoe came up empty in the state tournament, but reignited the program’s passion and pride with a playoff berth and postseason run. The Vikings have shown continued progress in three seasons under Cefalu — and the 2015-16 campaign marked a big step forward.
“Tahoe is a basketball town and we had lost that for quite a few years,” Cefalu said. “This group doesn’t realize it, but they are the stepping stone for the future and they have had such a huge impact on what is going to take place over the course of the next 10-15 years for South Tahoe basketball.”
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