South Tahoe boys b-ball runs past Fernley, wins fourth straight
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — The South Tahoe boys basketball team didn’t expect an uptempo contest against Fernley last Saturday — but was more than happy to play with pace. The Vikings beat the visiting Vaqueros 80-68, outlasting Fernley for a fourth straight victory.
“We have to play a different style of game every time — we don’t know what we’re going to do,” Vikings head coach Joby Cefalu said. “I hoped we wouldn’t have to run — especially with the team not being healthy.”
South Tahoe (8-7, 4-2 I-A Northern) traded baskets with the Vaqueros in the opening 26 seconds, a sequence that set the tone for a fast-paced contest. The Vikings broke free from a back and forth start with a 10-3 run midway through the first quarter, and had a 23-17 lead after a frenetic frame.
The Vikings stayed ahead of Fernley (6-8, 1-5) by at least three points in a second quarter played at a similar speed. Neither team strung together more than three straight points until the last minute of the quarter, when South Tahoe scored the final five to take a 43-34 lead into the break — forward Tyler Hogbin capped that spurt by banking in a three-pointer just before the buzzer.
“We put up a lot of points and a lot of it was off of transition,” Cefalu said.
South Tahoe scored the first six points of the second half to build a 15-point lead and maintained a double-digit advantage for the rest of the third quarter. A floater from Vikings guard Denzel Perez in the closing second of the period made it 60-48.
In the fourth quarter, South Tahoe absorbed one last push from Fernley to close out the game. The Vaqueros cut the Vikings’ lead to 69-60 with 4:26 left, then STHS secured the win from the free-throw line — nine of the team’s last 11 points came from the stripe.
“We’ve been focusing on going one day at a time and coming together as a team — really getting all the pieces firing together at once,” Merkley said. “We did that tonight.”
Merkley led South Tahoe with a game-high 22 points in the victory on 9-of-18 shooting. The senior did his damage inside by controlling the glass — four of his five rebounds came on the offensive end.
“I was working my hardest — rebounding has been a big weakness for our team and I was really trying to step it up,” Merkley said.
Guard Harry Moses-Chakmakis finished with 20 points and five assists against Fernley — the sophomore shot 11-for-13 from the free-throw line. Hogbin added 16 points and five rebounds.
Forward Dominic Ceresola and guard Zach Burns scored 17 points apiece to lead Fernley, and forward Kevin Montgomery added 13. The 6-foot-3-inch Ceresola was a force inside early, scoring eight points in the first quarter.
“He was pretty strong — we just had to sag over on the weak side and play good help defense,” Merkley said. We kind of shut him out in the second half.
In Saturday’s win, South Tahoe scored its most points in regulation this season — the Vikings’ season-high 81 came in a double-overtime loss to El Dorado (Placerville, Calif.) on Dec. 4. Sixty-eight points is the most STHS has surrendered in a win so far this year.
“I’m a little disappointed that our defense gave up so many points, but the good thing is that when it came down to it we were able to match buckets and do the things we needed to do to get it done,” Cefalu said.
South Tahoe waited more than a month to make its home debut — and played well during its opening homestand. The Vikings have won four straight since losing to Elko in their home debut Jan. 2, all double-digit victories.
“We need these games to get a good spot in the playoffs and we’ve been coming up clutch,” Merkley said. “Our home crowd is awesome and there’s a great vibe in the gym — every time I step through those doors, I get chills down my back and it’s an amazing feeling.”
South Tahoe resumed league play Tuesday night at Sparks. The Vikings travel to play Fallon on Saturday.
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