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Muir thrives at Viking basketball

Steve Yingling

The nearest shot clock was 60 miles away and the most-patient offensive team John Muir High might encounter all season was passing minutes off the clock like a rural grocery store operator.

Muir coach Don Grant said last year’s team would have folded. Instead, the athletic Mustangs proved they’re not one dimensional. The up-tempo-style Pasadena, Calif., team adjusted to South Tahoe’s deliberate pace and even excelled at it in crunch time to capture the Viking Rotary Classic boys basketball title, 47-40, on a snowy Saturday night at South Tahoe High.

“Give all the credit to (Tahoe). It’s not easy to do that. They ran the best offense we’ve faced this year and probably will face,” Grant said. “Our style, the way it is, we can’t play that way. We want to create some turnovers and create a faster pace.”



That’s just what the Mustangs did to start the decisive fourth quarter, breaking a 30-30 tie on a steal by Jonathan Williams, who fed John Parker for an old-school three-point play.

“They run a real structured offense. They make you stick them if you want to win,” said Parker, who scored nine of his game-high 19 points in the final eight minutes. “It was hard for the first couple of quarters, but we just got used to it. After we got the lead, we just tried to play their kind of basketball.”



South Tahoe never got any closer than two points the rest of the way as two walking violations, three passing miscues and several missed free throws thwarted the Vikings attempt to reclaim a title they last won in 1996.

“We just didn’t step up as much as we had to,” said Viking 24-year coach Tom Orlich. “We got hurt in three big areas: We missed some easy shots down the stretch, we had some critical turnovers that you can’t afford in a low-possession game and we gave up too many second shots.”

Despite their wasted opportunities in final period, the Vikings made several pushes to pull out the championship. Guard John Giannoni, who led the Vikings with 13 points, coolly connected on a 3-pointer to reduce Muir’s lead to 35-33 with 5 minutes, 18 seconds remaining.

Senior forward Billy Doughty almost pulled the Vikings even, but three successive energetic tips of his own missed layup found nothing but rim.

“In the second half we kind of got off of our game plan and started hurrying things and turning the ball over,” Giannoni said. “We did have them where we wanted them, but were not taking care of the ball at the end of the game is what lost it.”

Parker came right back to bank in a 5-footer, putting Muir ahead 37-33.

Giannoni followed a Viking turnover with a steal, but the junior missed the layup. However, senior Josh David pulled down the rebound and was fouled. But he failed to convert the front end of the one-and-one.

When Muir cleared the rebound, Orlich was hit with a technical foul, setting up two successful free throws by Nate Johnson and possession of the basketball with 2:58 left.

“It certainly hurt us a little bit. Instead of a four-point game, it made it a six-point game,” Orlich said.

Orlich was screaming for a foul on missed free throw and was astonished by the referee’s decision to “T” him up.

“For one, I didn’t get a warning. The reason I was yelling was because (Doughty) was going up for a rebound and they were holding his jersey. They were holding our jerseys throughout the game and they never called it once,” Orlich said. “The only thing that bothered me was the referee didn’t say, “Hey, you say anything again, and I’m going to ‘T’ you. It was out of the blue.”

South Tahoe caught a break seconds later when Parker missed the only free throw Muir failed on all evening. David pulled the Vikings to within 39-35 with a difficult 12-foot turn-around jump shot in heavy traffic.

After Parker and Doughty exchanged baskets, Jeff Washington’s two free throws re-established Muir’s six-point lead, 43-37, with 1:15 to go.

Doughty’s inside basket on a feed from David brought the Vikings within four for the final time, but Doughty fouled out seconds later trying to stop Parker in the paint. Parker made both free throws for a 45-39 edge. Sprinkles scored the Vikings’ final point at the foul line with 13.7 left, and then Washington started chanting, “Game over, game over,” after relaying the ball to a wide-open Darelle Rowe for a layup.

“For me, it’s extra special. Before we came out for fourth quarter, we said, ‘We’ve got to win this, no matter what.’ And I told them I wanted to win this one more than anything because I’ve been here three other times and settled for second place,” said Parker, the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

Viking players took their first defeat in three games particularly hard.

“This is our tournament and we don’t like losing, especially championship games,” Giannoni said.

Junior Tim Sprinkles, who scored five points, was one of the last to leave the Viking locker room afterward, taking more than his share of blame for the defeat.

“I always take losses hard … it’s if you can come back afterwards and get the team together and rebound after that. We just have to put this behind us,” Sprinkles said.

“In the first half everybody was running our half-court offense right, but I couldn’t hear the plays as well as everybody in the second half. I’ll take the blame on a couple of those (wasted) possessions because I didn’t go to my assignment spot. On our high fives, we just weren’t cutting as hard to the ball as we were in the first half.”

Giannoni, Doughty and David were chosen to the 10-member all-tournament team.

Sprinkles netted 14 points and David 13 in the Vikings’ 73-57 semifinal victory over Franklin on Friday night. It marked the 22nd time in Orlich’s STHS coaching career that the Vikings qualified for the finals.

Franklin, however, rebounded to win the third-place game, outlasting Leuzinger 69-66 behind Brian Berumen’s 22 points. Soquel spanked Redwood 80-65 to capture the consolation title, while Atwater averted a lost weekend with a 62-50 win over Everett Alvarez in the seventh-place game.

VIKING CLASSIC FINALS BOX

MUIR 47, STHS 40

MUIR

Washington 2-13, 2-2, 6; Bonwell 2-6, 0-0, 6; Parker 8-9, 3-4, 19; Rowe 4-7, 2-2, 10; Miller 1-1, 0-0, 2; Williams 1-3, 0-0, 2; Gilmore 0-2, 0-0, 0; Johnson 0-0, 2-2, 2. Totals 18-41, 9-10, 47.

STHS

David 3-5, 0-1, 6; Giannoni 5-12, 1-2, 13; Sprinkles 2-2, 1-2, 5; Doughty 3-7, 6; A. Williams 3-5, 0-0, 6; M. Williams 0-0, 0-1, 0; Barkley 1-2, 0-0, 2; Butcher 1-1, 0-0, 2. Totals 18-34, 2-6, 40.

Muir 10 9 11 17 – 47

STHS 10 10 10 10 – 40

Three-pointers: Bonwell 2; Giannoni 2. Technical foul: STHS coach Orlich, fourth quarter.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM

MVP-John Parker, Muir

Other selections: STHS, Josh David, John Giannoni, Billy Doughty; Muir, Jason Bonwell, Jeff Washington; Soquel, Desean Greene, Casey Curtis; Benjamin Franklin, Gabriel Chipe, Brian Berumen; Leuzinger, Ron P.

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