South Tahoe boys b-ball drops two to start second round of league
The South Tahoe boys basketball team envisioned a much different start to the second round of Div. I-A Northern League play than what happened on the court last weekend. The Vikings suffered home defeats to Lowry and Truckee in consecutive days, losses that make their path to the postseason more difficult.
“It was extremely tough,” Vikings coach Joby Cefalu said. “We really worked hard to get the win against Lowry, and the mental and physical letdown from that loss carried over to Saturday.”
On Saturday afternoon, South Tahoe (9-10, 5-5) took a stunning loss to crosslake rival Truckee. The Vikings fell to the Wolverines 50-34, unable to overcome a slow start en route to a third straight defeat.
“One of our themes is respecting the fact that every opponent is coming to play with the idea that they’re going to beat us — unfortunately we didn’t take that to heart on Saturday,” Cefalu said. “It was an ugly game, but we’ll learn from it.”
South Tahoe couldn’t get its offense going in the first quarter, and trailed 8-3 after a rough opening period. The Vikings got into more of a rhythm in the second quarter, but still trailed Truckee (4-13, 2-7) by six at halftime.
The Wolverines extended their lead to double digits by scoring the first four points of the second half. South Tahoe continued to stay within reach for the rest of the third quarter, but could never retake the lead.
With 2:26 left in the quarter, the Vikings cut Truckee’s lead to 24-21 on a three-point play from guard Tommy Cefalu. But the Wolverines answered with five straight points and had a 29-23 after three quarters.
South Tahoe came within five points twice in the fourth quarter — but Truckee answered each time. After a layup from Vikings guard Harry Moses-Chakmakis made it 37-32 with 3:40 to play, the Wolverines scored eight straight points to deliver the knockout blow and avenge a 17-point loss to STHS from the first round of league play.
“It was total frustration and a total lack of confidence, which was directly reflected in the outcome of the game,” Cefalu said.
Forward Stone Merkley scored a team-high 12 points for South Tahoe in the loss and guard Kirby David added eight. In Saturday’s defeat, the Vikings were held to a season-low 34 points.
For Truckee, guard Chase Vankirk scored 14 points and guard Nick Oberitter added 12. The Vikings beat the Wolverines 62-45 on Dec. 16 in the teams’ first meeting.
On Friday night, the Vikings tipped off the second round of league play with a 58-48 loss to Lowry. South Tahoe led for only 77 seconds in a frustratingly close defeat to the second-place Buckaroos.
“We couldn’t get shots to fall, we were outrebounded and unfortunately we had some of the same lapses that we’ve had,” Cefalu said.
In the opening quarter, South Tahoe took its first and only lead of the game on a wing jumper from Merkley. That shot put the Vikings ahead 5-3 with 5:29 left in the first quarter — but Lowry answered with six straight points and led by four headed into the second quarter.
The Buckaroos took a 27-25 advantage into the break after an up-and-down second quarter. South Tahoe used both a 7-0 run early in the frame and 8-3 run at its end to stay within a possession of Lowry at halftime.
The Vikings pulled even with Lowry twice in the first three minutes of the third quarter, but the visitors had an answer each time. The Buckaroos broke a 29-29 tie midway through the frame with a 9-1 run — and took a 39-34 lead over South Tahoe into the fourth quarter.
In the fourth, South Tahoe again came frustratingly close to jumping in front. After Lowry opened the scoring with a layup in the opening minute, the Vikings scored six straight points and pulled within one on a David layup with 4:20 to play — but that is as close as they would get.
The Buckaroos responded with a 6-0 run of their own and led by at least five the rest of the way. Merkley hit a three-pointer with 48 seconds left to make it 53-48, but Lowry made a pair of defensive stops and five free throws to hand the Vikings a double-digit defeat.
Merkley led South Tahoe with 12 points in the loss, Moses-Chakmakis scored 11 and forward Tyler Hobgin finished with 10. Guard Christian Gray scored a game-high 23 points for Lowry — including 17 combined in the second and third quarters.
“We poured a ton of preparation and energy into the Lowry game — that backfired and the result was a loss on Saturday against Truckee,” Cefalu said. “We put a lot of energy into that game and it showed in Saturday’s loss.”
With the losses, South Tahoe remains tied four the fourth and final playoff spot with Fallon (8-11, 5-5). The Greenwave lost to Spring Creek Friday night and fell against Elko Saturday.
“We go up and down and we move in cycles,” Cefalu said. “A lot of that has to do with lack of success in the past — a lot of these boys are still smelling it and still tasting it.”
South Tahoe returns to action with a pair of road games in consecutive days beginning Friday night. The Vikings travel to play league-leading Elko Friday at 7:30 p.m. and face Spring Creek Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
“The boys got together, the coaches got together and we have made a plan for the rest of the season,” Cefalu said. “Fortunately we’re right in the thick of things — but we need to win some games to be where we want to be.
“I’m optimistic about the future.”
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