South Tahoe boys b-ball drops double OT thriller in Gold Dust Tournament opener
PLACERVILLE, Calif. — Four quarters and overtime weren’t enough to separate the South Tahoe boys basketball team from host El Dorado (Placerville, Calif.) in the first round of the Gold Dust Tournament on Thursday night — and the second overtime barely decided a winner. The Vikings lost to the Cougars 83-81 in a double-overtime thriller, suffering their first defeat of the season.
“It was a dogfight and it could have gone either way — unfortunately we were on the losing end of it,” Vikings head coach Joby Cefalu said.
South Tahoe (1-1) opened up a 10-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, and El Dorado (2-0) mounted a comeback with four three-pointers from guard Cam Battersby. The Vikings trailed the Cougars in the closing seconds, and forward Tyler Hogbin forced overtime with a buzzer-beating three from the top of the key.
“Our big man can also play with his face to the basket,” Cefalu said of the 6-foot-5-inch senior.
The Vikings never led in the first overtime period, and tied the game up late to force double overtime. South Tahoe had the ball last in the period, but an unsuccessful possession kept the game tied.
“We had every opportunity to win the game — it was just a few mistakes, and those mistakes can be cleaned up with a little more practice and focus,” Cefalu said. “It could have gone either way.”
Both teams played traded baskets throughout the second overtime period, and South Tahoe was forced to employ a smaller lineup after Hogbin and guard Kirby David both fouled out. Despite missed free throws and a couple untimely turnovers, South Tahoe had the ball down two in the closing seconds — but an empty possession allowed El Dorado to capture the victory.
“Unfortunately, we just couldn’t get it done in the second overtime — we had all the opportunities to do so,” Cefalu said. “The kids gave everything they had. In the postgame, the kids were hanging their heads — they had no reason to because they gave their very best effort.”
South Tahoe got off to a slow start and trailed 14-7 after the first quarter. The Vikings rallied to take a 24-23 lead at halftime — in the first two quarters, they shot just 4-for-17 in the paint.
“We overcame a slow start — we came out, had nerves, missed our first few shots and turned the ball over when we shouldn’t,” Cefalu said. “When we came out and we were down, we could have given up — instead they fought.”
South Tahoe led 45-40 after three quarters, and stretched that lead to double digits before El Dorado rallied. Despite the loss, Cefalu said Thursday night’s game will benefit the Vikings later on in the season.
“With our league, every night is going to be a battle — so to be in close games this time of year and get some of that out of our system before we hit league is really nice,” Cefalu said. “It’s tough to lose that game and I know the team is still hurting from that loss, but we have to overcome that.”
Forward Stone Merkley led South Tahoe with 23 points while drawing the defensive assignment of El Dorado’s most dangerous player. Hogbin’s 22-point effort went along with seven rebounds — he shot 7-for-8 in the paint and 5-of-6 at the free-throw line.
Guard Harry Moses-Chakmakis finished with 10 points (5-for-8 in the paint), six rebounds, three steals and two deflections — guard Denzel Perez also had 10 points in the loss to go along with a strong defensive performance. David and guard Chase Waterman scored seven points apiece.
“I was impressed with the team overall — their effort was outstanding,” Cefalu said. “If we can clean up our game a little bit and get a little better start, I’ll be really happy with what we’re doing.”
South Tahoe only allowed one opponent to reach 80 points last season, and Thursday night El Dorado eclipsed that mark. Both teams were tied at 65 at the end of regulation.
“I give it up to El Dorado for going out and putting up that many on us,” Cefalu said. “We pressured them from the beginning and they handled that pressure really well. We had a game plan for them and we did a good job with that game plan.”
As for the 35-second shot clock that South Tahoe isn’t accustomed to in NIAA contests, Cefalu said it didn’t impact the Vikings’ play. STHS’ coaching staff decided to count down the clock with eight seconds left — and only had to count on one offensive possession.
“We’re a team that is going to be really aggressive, and holding the ball is just something that we’re not going to do — we’re going to try to push it up the court,” Cefalu said.
South Tahoe resumed tournament play Friday night at El Dorado High against Woodland (Calif.), who lost to Vista del Lago (Folsom, Calif.) in the first round. The Vikings conclude action at the tournament Saturday — a win over the Eagles would put them in the consolation championship.
In the lower levels, South Tahoe’s junior varsity and freshman teams each won their Gold Dust Tournament openers Thursday. The JV Vikings beat El Dorado 37-36 to improve to 2-0 on the season.