Orlich, Maurer learn a lot about teams from one game
If South Tahoe High was superstitious, the Vikings would have lost their annual regular-season showdown with Galena on Saturday night.
After all, the Grizzlies have used tight losses to the Vikings as a launching pad to their Northern Nevada League 4A boys basketball postseason dominance over the past three years.
So does that mean the Grizzlies will now go on to win their fourth straight boys zone basketball title?
Not this time.
The Grizzlies are a year away from regaining their throne in the North. Their backcourt doesn’t produce enough points and defensive pressure, and their inside game – while at times overpowering – lacks consistency.
Meanwhile, the Vikings have all the pieces to bring coach Tom Orlich his ninth zone title.
Last year, coaches could say as John Giannoni III goes, so go South Tahoe’s hopes. This year, the Vikings are more versatile and play better as a team.
“They’re not big, they’re not jumping out of the gym and they don’t dunk the ball, but they are a great team,” said Galena head coach Tom Maurer, following his team’s 53-40 setback to STHS on Saturday in South Lake Tahoe. “I told Tom after the game that you have all the chemistry to go all the way. It gives me goosebumps, thinking what I had. And their player are not even Division I-type players. They play good team ball.”
As division play starts to heat up, the Vikings’ strengths are:
– Most notably, their defense can take over games. Their half-court pressure against Galena on Saturday night turned the game around, forcing the Grizzlies into turnovers on four straight possessions. If the Vikings show that kind of intensity on defense for 32 minutes, some teams might be lucky to score double digits. The way the Vikings are playing defense in the half court, they may not need to apply the full-court pressure that has been the team’s trademark since Orlich’s arrival 25 years ago.
– Travis McCollum’s return from a knee injury and Bobby Larmore’s vast improvement give the Vikings inside scoring and rebounding, the lack of which has been the team’s downfall in recent years.
– Giannoni can take over a game all by himself, but his willingness to get the whole team involved has made the Vikings better. He no longer has to do it all, even though he showed at times against Galena that he can. On defense, the 5-foot-9 point guard is more disruptive than a cell phone ringing in church, as he anticipates the passing lanes remarkably well and competes to the final horn.
– Orlich has shouldered all of the coaching workload since assistants Mike Greenfield and Larry Reilly left, and former players Erik Rasmussen and Bill Bartelson have moved on. Yet, there is no mistaking the longtime coach has something special brewing this season. He’s smiling more and has repeated how much fun he’s having working with this year’s team.
“We have a very special team this year,” Orlich told a home crowd Friday night during a postgame ceremony honoring him for his 500th coaching victory. “I’ve been here 25 years, and we’re going into a new millennium, and I can think of no better team to represent South Tahoe High.”
– Free-throw shooting: They missed 12 free-throw attempts against Galena. Good thing the game wasn’t close, but they will be in the postseason.
– Inconsistency on offense: Sometimes, the Vikings selfishly shoot too soon. With the talent they put on the court, good shots shouldn’t be too hard to find with a little more patience.
Orlich, however, isn’t about to discount Maurer’s Grizzlies from title contention.
“I wasn’t surprised with the intensity of our game. I was surprised how good Galena was,” Orlich said. “I didn’t realize they were as physical and as skilled as they were. Film does not do Galena justice.
“I think they still could be the team to beat this year. They really could. Just because we had them up here. Throw out the second quarter and it’s a dead-even game. There isn’t a whole lot of difference between us and them. They are very athletic and they play very hard, and they are going to keep getting better and better.”
Even though Maurer gave his squad a lengthy Bobby Knight-like chewing out afterward, he felt he won despite what the scoreboard read.
“I guarantee you if we would have won this game, they would have thought, ‘We can wait now and get the zone championship,’ said Maurer, who lost 65 percent of his scoring and 35 percent of his assists from last year as point guard Lance Buoncristiani moved on to play college ball at Idaho. “This is a great loss for a young team. It puts them right where they belong.”
As for Orlich, he already had his sights set on today’s division collision with Reno, 14-3 overall, including 3-0 in league.
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