South Tahoe boys b-ball exacts revenge, beats Union Mine
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — The South Tahoe boys basketball team has made big strides since the start of the 2014-15 season — and produced a result confirming that Thursday night. South Tahoe beat Union Mine (El Dorado, Calif.) 68-58 at home, avenging a 25-point loss to the Diamondbacks from earlier in the season.
“Last time we played them we weren’t the same team mentally — this time we came in and we were really strong,” Vikings head coach Joby Cefalu said. “Right now, the guys are believing — they’re believing in themselves and they’re believing in their teammates.”
South Tahoe (7-7) began its last nonleague game of the regular season with a starting lineup featuring all reserves — guards Aaron Pfister and Hirshal Sukha in the backcourt along with forwards Michal Lis, Joe Albrecht and Ethan Strain in the frontcourt. That group played together for the first three minutes of the game, which was tied 4-4 as the Vikings’ normal starters began to trickle back in.
“We talk a lot about ‘earning it’ — they earned the right to start the game and get those minutes,” Cefalu said. “They did an excellent job — they’re kids that come to practice and challenge every day for a job, and they deserve the right to get the time on the court.”
From the outset, South Tahoe appeared poised to reverse the result of the earlier meeting between the teams — an 80-55 loss at the Gold Dust Tournament Dec. 5. After allowing Union Mine (9-7) to score the first four points, the Vikings went on a 12-2 run and ended the first quarter ahead 14-8.
“Last time we talked a lot about our speed up the court, how we were going to run and press,” Cefalu said. “Tonight I just decided to take the press off, primarily because we have tired, sick bodies — we made them work throughout the game, and I think taking away those transition points made a difference.”
South Tahoe maintained at least a four-point lead early in the second quarter before breaking the game open. After Diamondbacks guard Andrew Vaughn knocked down a three-pointer to make it 20-15 with 3:48 left in the half, the Vikings went on a 13-2 run to finish the frame — a buzzer-beating layup from guard Harry Moses-Chakmakis put STHS ahead 33-17 at the break.
The Vikings opened the second half with its initial starting five, and Union Mine hit that group with a full-court press that led to seven straight points. Ahead 33-24, South Tahoe answered with eight consecutive points to stretch its lead to 17 — the Vikings had a 16-point advantage after the third quarter.
“Our usual starters were very supportive of bringing the kids that have been working so hard off the bench and starting them,” Cefalu said. “It’s a team game and the team concept is really being bought into by the players.”
In the fourth quarter, South Tahoe kept Union Mine at a distance while rolling to victory. A Strain free throw put the Vikings ahead 68-49 with 1:20 to play — with the outcome already decided, Union Mine scored the game’s last nine points.
“Closing out the fourth quarter was impressive,” Cefalu said. “I think the altitude had something to do with it — they wore out a little bit.”
South Tahoe had four players score in double figures in the win, led by 15 points from forward Tyler Hogbin. Forward Stone Merkley scored 13 while Moses-Chakmakis and guard Kirby David added 11 apiece.
“We’re really finding our groove right now, and hopefully we can maintain it,” Cefalu said.
Guard Bradley Brittain led Union Mine with a game-high 17 points and Vaughn finished with 15. In the teams’ first meeting, Brittain scored 27 points and made seven three-pointers — Thursday night he made one trey and was held to four points in the first half.
“(Brittain) couldn’t miss a three when we played them last time — tonight we made an adjustment to trap him on that shot and try to take it away,” Cefalu said. “Our guys really worked together well on defense to shut down their scorers.”
Thursday night’s game between the Vikings and Diamondbacks was set prior to the season — and a scheduling quirk made it a rare nonleague rematch. At the Gold Dust Tournament, both teams lost their openers then won in the second round to meet for the consolation championship.
“They’re a lot like the teams we see in league — they shoot well, they play different man-zone variations and it’s a good team to play,” Cefalu said. “We didn’t have that plan to start the season — it was weird playing a nonleague opponent twice.”
South Tahoe resumes league play on Saturday, riding a three-game winning streak into its game against Fernley. Tipoff on the Vikings’ home court is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.
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