South Tahoe boys b-ball holds off Spring Creek 69-66 in Div. I-A Northern League quarterfinals |

South Tahoe boys b-ball holds off Spring Creek 69-66 in Div. I-A Northern League quarterfinals

Anthony Gentile |
South Tahoe senior Denzel Perez drives into the lane against Spring Creek in the Div. I-A Northern League quarterfinals Thursday, Feb. 18, at North Valleys.
Anthony Gentile / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

For three-and-a-half quarters of its playoff debut, it looked like the South Tahoe boys basketball team would easily deliver its first postseason victory in three years. Then things got interesting.

The third-seeded Vikings ultimately held off sixth-seeded Spring Creek 69-66 in the Div. I-A Northern League quarterfinals Thursday, Feb. 18, at North Valleys High. South Tahoe nearly had a 17-point lead evaporate in the fourth quarter, but survived to advance to the next round.

“It’s huge,” Vikings junior Harry Moses-Chakmakis said.

South Tahoe (13-14) largely dictated play in the rubber match against Spring Creek (12-15), and had a 61-45 lead with 3:34 left in the fourth quarter. With the game nearly in hand, the Vikings went onto miss eight of nine free-throw attempts over the next 1:15.

The misses gave Spring Creek life, and with 1:04 to play a 3-pointer from Logan Patton made it 62-55. South Tahoe’s lead was cut to six with 52 seconds left, before senior Ethan Strain helped the Vikings close out the victory from the charity stripe.

Strain went 6-for-8 from the line in the last minute to help the Vikings prevail. His free throws with 2.4 seconds left gave South Tahoe a decisive 69-63 lead — a Spring Creek 3-pointer at the buzzer made the final result a one-possession outcome.

“We just had to stay calm and not worry too much about it,” Vikings senior Blake Blocker said.

South Tahoe led 17-14 after an even first quarter, and created separation just before halftime. The Vikings scored the last seven points of the first half, and a 3-pointer from junior Noah Jackson with three seconds left sent them into the break with a 35-22 lead.

“We definitely came out ready to play tonight,” Blocker said. “We weren’t lazy at all or sleeping — we came out hot, and had energy from the start.”

In the third quarter, the Vikings continued to play at their pace and stretched their advantage to 19 points courtesy of an 8-0 run. South Tahoe stayed comfortably in front until midway through the fourth quarter, when Spring Creek began its rally.

Senior Denzel Perez led South Tahoe with 18 points in its quarterfinal victory, all but one of which came in the first three quarters. For Perez, it was his best performance since returning from a midseason knee injury that cost him seven games.

“It felt like the beginning of the season when I was on one,” Perez said. “It felt good to get my stroke back.”

“Denzel was money,” Moses-Chakmakis added.

Perez was one of four Vikings in double figures Thursday. Blocker and Moses-Chakmakis scored 12 apiece against the Spartans while Strain added 10.

“It felt good from the start,” Moses-Chakmakis said.

For Spring Creek, Patton scored a game-high 22 points and hit five of his six three-pointers in the second half. Cooper Cavaness finished with 16 and Ryan Knudsen added 13 for the Spartans, who came into the postseason riding a three-game winning streak — including a 48-39 win over South Tahoe six days earlier.

“Defense and communication is really what got us going,” Perez said. “In the last game, we didn’t communicate as much and our shooting was off.”

South Tahoe advanced to the regional semifinals to play second-seeded Lowry on Friday, Feb. 19, at North Valleys. Fourth-seeded Fernley, who beat fifth-seeded Fallon 64-48 on Thursday, took on top-seeded Elko in the second semifinal.

Each of the semifinal winners earned a berth in the state tournament. The Div. I-A Northern League championship will be played at North Valleys on Saturday, Feb. 20, at 2 p.m.

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