South Tahoe boys b-ball runs past Dayton 73-34, wins first league game
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — There was no slowing the South Tahoe boys basketball team on the way to its first Div. I-A Northern League victory of the season Tuesday, Dec. 22. The Vikings ran past Dayton 73-34 in the Blue Gym, withstanding the Dust Devils’ early slowdown tactics before breaking free in the second half.
“It sets the tone for the rest of the season,” Vikings junior Zen Contestable said. “Coming off these two wins, teams are going to know that South Tahoe is ready to play.”
South Tahoe (3-5, 1-1 I-A Northern) led 12-2 after an opening quarter in which its opponent was determined to play with a deliberate pace. Dayton (3-8, 0-3) passed and set screens on the opposite side of the court with little intent to score for most of the first eight minutes, and scored its only basket of the frame with 1:18 left.
“It was definitely a little different,” Contestable said. “It reminded us of one of our offenses that we have, so we knew how to defend it.”
The Vikings held a 24-12 advantage after an even second quarter in which they had five different players score a field goal. After halftime, South Tahoe turned up the pressure and tempo to turn the relative stalemate into a full-fledged rout.
“We just put our foot on the gas and came out ready to push the ball,” Vikings senior Blake Blocker said.
In the third quarter, South Tahoe broke the game open with a 15-1 run broken up only by a Dust Devils’ free throw with 3:07 left in the frame. The four-minute stretch included five points from senior Denzel Perez, and four apiece from senior Ethan Strain and junior Tommy Cefalu — a floater from Blocker capped the run and put the Vikings ahead 43-17.
“Defensively, we vowed to start picking it up, baiting them into their passes and tricking them into stuff so we could run at our own pace,” Vikings junior Tyler Ritter said. “It was our ballgame instead of theirs.”
The Vikings took a 24-point lead into the fourth quarter, which they further stretched out courtesy of a 17-4 run. South Tahoe’s 39-point win was its most decisive in league play since the 2010-11 season.
“After we had a slow first half, the bench in the second half was key,” Ritter said. Everyone was into it whether we were in the game or not — we were pushing it, lively and everyone fed off the energy.
Blocker led South Tahoe with 14 points, matching a game high. The senior transferred to STHS from Dayton before the school year — during pregame introductions, he exchanged a hug with Dust Devils’ coach Jason Santos.
“It was kind of weird playing against my old team, but it was nice to see them all again,” Blocker said. “They all still like me and there were no grudges or anything like that.”
Strain added 12 points as part of a balanced Vikings’ attack. Perez scored eight, Harry Moses-Chakmakis, Hirshal Sukha, Cefalu and Ritter added six apiece while Noah Jackson finished with five — 12 South Tahoe players scored in the victory.
“We’re feeling good,” Blocker said. “We’re definitely confident right now and we’re starting to blend in a little bit better.”
Josh Riders led Dayton with 14 points, including three 3-pointers. Jonathan Ply added eight for the Dust Devils, who have lost six straight after a 3-2 start.
South Tahoe returns to action Saturday, Dec. 26, at the San Pedro Pirate Shootout in Southern California. The Vikings will play four games in five days at the tournament, starting with host San Pedro (Calif.) on Saturday.
The Vikings resume league play at home Saturday, Jan. 2, against Fallon. Tipoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.