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South Tahoe boys b-ball begins season with state aspirations

Anthony Gentile
agentile@tahoedailytribune.com
South Tahoe head coach Joby Cefalu talks to the Vikings during a timeout in the team’s scrimmage against Bishop Manouge last Saturday. STHS went 9-15 in Cefalu’s first season as head coach.
Anthony Gentile / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

The South Tahoe boys basketball team enters the 2014-15 season with high expectations. No matter where the Vikings end up, they will aim to get there as fast as possible.

“Our goal is to win a state championship — we have a very high mountain to climb,” said Vikings second-year head coach Joby Cefalu.

Cefalu took over the program last season after serving as an assistant for several years. South Tahoe went 9-15 during the 2013-14 season and finished one game out of the playoffs — after a full offseason, the Vikings expect greater success this year.

“It’s really changing that culture to one where we are focused on doing the very best we can every day on the court,” Cefalu said. “Winning or losing is the barometer you’re gauged by — I feel that if my kids give their very best each and every day, then we’re going to accomplish great things.

“…If my kids give their very best each and every day, then we’re going to accomplish great things.”
Joby Cefalu
Vikings head coach

“I hope to change that culture back to one of South Lake Tahoe being a basketball town once again. We just have to get back to our roots — and that’s where we’re headed.”

Conditioning and fundamentals were the focus of South Tahoe’s offseason. The Vikings believe the work they put in during the spring and summer months will translate to a strong work ethic during the season.

“To get to the top of the hill, you have to work hard,” Vikings senior power forward Matt Herring said. “We worked hard in the offseason and we’re still putting in work.”

South Tahoe has experience on its side this season — seven players are varsity returners, including five seniors. The senior group consists of Herring, point guard Chase Waterman, shooting guard Kirby David, forward Stone Merkley and power forward Tyler Hogbin — Hogbin is the team’s top returning scorer.

Junior guard Denzel Perez and sophomore guard Harry Moses round out the Vikings’ group of returning players. Eight South Tahoe players are making their varsity debuts this season — seniors Michal Lis and Aaron Pfister, juniors Joe Albrecht, Mason Cain, Ethan Strain and Hirshal Sukha, and sophomores Tommy Cefalu and Noah Jackson.

“We all come out everyday and want to get better as individuals and as a team — we all want to succeed together,” Moses said. “We have the confidence, the drive and the brotherhood to accomplish anything.”

Speed will dictate South Tahoe’s play on both ends of the court this season. Offensively, the Vikings will look to push a frenetic pace and execute early offense as much as possible — Cefalu constantly preaches the motto, ‘Be quick, don’t hurry.’

“We run, but we have a purpose,” Waterman said. “There’s structure to it when we run teams — it might look crazy, but there’s definitely structure there.”

“We’re going to have to play smart and cut back on the turnovers — last year the turnover numbers were way too high,” Hogbin added.

Defensively, the Vikings plan to run man-to-man with both the full-court and half-court options. South Tahoe wants to use its defense to create turnovers and generate easy transition chances.

“Our defense is going to win us our games — we need to have a high defensive presence in all games,” David said. “We’re a fast team with a lot of fast players — that will help us a lot in getting us buckets.”

South Tahoe will play with an uptempo approach this season, and plans to deliver entertaining performances. It’s not a secret the Vikings will use pace to attack their opponents — and they believe they can simply outwork the opposition.

“They just have to play harder than us — we’re going to do the little things right, and if they can outwork us good for them,” Cefalu said. “But I believe that with the group of young men I have, we are going to be a force to be reckoned with — they will work hard.”

South Tahoe opens the season at North Valleys on Friday night, the first of 11 straight road games to begin the campaign. The Vikings’ nonleague slate includes El Dorado’s Gold Dust Tournament (Dec. 4-6) and the San Pedro Pirate Shootout (Dec. 26-30) — their first home contest is Jan. 2 against defending league champion Elko.

“We’re going to prove a lot of people wrong and show them exactly what we can do,” Moses said. “A lot of teams in the league have us as a win they should have easily — it’s going to be different.”

The Vikings have the experience and talent to contend for a league championship and make a state playoff run this season. How well the team focuses on the fundamentals and details will determine how far it goes.

“We don’t want the same outcome as last year — that’s what pushes us in practice,” Herring said. “We want a championship here.”


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