South Tahoe boys b-ball shooting for playoff return with talented group in 2015-16 | TahoeDailyTribune.com

South Tahoe boys b-ball shooting for playoff return with talented group in 2015-16

Anthony Gentile | agentile@tahoedailytribune.com
South Tahoe senior Denzel Perez puts up a shot during practice on Tuesday, Nov. 24, at the Gold Gym.
Anthony Gentile / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

2015-16 South Tahoe Boys B-Ball Regular Season Schedule

Nov. 27 vs. Foothill, 7 p.m.

Dec. 3-5 at Gold Dust Tournament (El Dorado)

*Dec. 11 vs. Fernley, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 14 at Union Mine, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 19 vs. Damonte Ranch, 5 p.m.

*Dec. 22 vs. Dayton, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 26-30 San Pedro Pirate Shootout

*Jan. 2 vs. Fallon, 2:30 p.m.

*Jan. 9 at Truckee, 2:30 p.m.

*Jan. 15 at Sparks, 7:30 p.m.

*Jan. 16 vs. Lowry, 2:30 p.m.

*Jan. 22 vs. Spring Creek, 7:30 p.m.

*Jan. 23 vs. Elko, 2:30 p.m.

*Jan. 26 at Fallon, 7:30 p.m.

*Jan. 29 at Fernley, 7:30 p.m.

*Jan. 30 at Dayton, 2:30 p.m.

*Feb. 2 vs. Truckee, 7:30 p.m.

*Feb. 5 at Lowry, 7:30 p.m.

*Feb. 6 vs. Sparks, 2:30 p.m.

*Feb. 12 at Spring Creek, 7:30 p.m.

*Feb. 13 at Elko, 2:30 p.m.

Home games in bold

*Div. I-A Northern League game

The South Tahoe boys basketball team enters the 2015-16 season relatively untested. But that lack of experience isn’t keeping the Vikings from postseason aspirations.

“We want to make the playoffs really badly,” Vikings senior center Joe Albrecht said. “It’s all we’ve talked about since the season ended last year — going to playoffs for the first time in a while.”

South Tahoe finished 13-12 last season, its third under head coach Joby Cefalu. For the second straight year the Vikings missed the playoffs by one game; in both instances, they were kept out by a season-ending loss to Fallon.

“That hurt, and it’s definitely still in the back of our minds,” Vikings senior forward Ethan Strain said. “Coach reminds every day in practice that we can’t go out the same way did last year.”

“We’re doing all we can, working every day and pushing each other.”Denzel PerezVikings senior

“It’s feeding us more — that’s not how we wanted to end our season,” Vikings senior guard Denzel Perez added.

South Tahoe returns four seniors from last year’s team — Albrecht, Strain and Perez along with guard Hirshal Sukha. That quartet has taken over the leadership role for a program that graduated seven seniors last season.

“We’re the leadership of the team because we’ve been playing the longest and we know all the plays,” Albrecht said. “Our role is to be a role model for the younger players to help prepare them for next year and to help us out this year.”

The 6-foot-9-inch Albrecht gives South Tahoe a weapon inside that it hasn’t had in seasons past. On a guard-dominated team, the Vikings’ big man worked on his game over the summer and will play a larger role on the team after seeing limited minutes as a junior.

“He’s improving and he’s going to be a big key for us because we feed the post a lot,” Perez said. “No one is going to be as big as him, and he’s getting stronger — it’s going to be hard to stop.”

South Tahoe’s varsity returners include juniors Harry Moses-Chakmakis, Tommy Cefalu and Noah Jackson, a trio of quick guards. The Vikings also get a boost in experience with an arrival from a league rival — 6-foot-4-inch senior Blake Blocker transferred from Dayton, where he was the Dust Devils’ leading scorer last season.

“We have a bunch of new players that haven’t played together before, so I think our chemistry needs to come together,” Perez said. “We’re doing all we can, working every day and pushing each other.”

Newcomers to the varsity level include juniors Zen Contestable, Dylan Gooding, Garret Harley, Ridge Merkley and Tyler Ritter. Each of the multiple-sport athletes adds depth to a South Tahoe team that plans to play with tempo offensively and defensively this season.

“Our second team has to be the second-best team in the league — we have to push each other everyday in practice,” Strain said. “We have enough skill, we just have to go at it until our worst player becomes our best player.”

South Tahoe’s collective scoring ability gives this team the potential to have a different feel than past editions. The Vikings don’t have a single player expected to carry the team’s offense game in and game out — instead, they will feature multiple offensive threats.

“We have a lot of players that can contribute to scoring,” Sukha said. “It’s a well-balanced team and we’ve all been playing with each other for a while, so there’s a lot of chemistry there.”

“Everybody on this team can shoot, and I think we’re going to shoot the lights out this year,” said Perez, who made 30 three-pointers last season.

South Tahoe opens the season at the Blue Gym on Friday, Nov. 27, against Foothill (Sacramento, Calif.) at 7 p.m. The Mustangs are coached by former STHS standout Drew Hibbs, who has the chance to secure his 400th career win at his alma mater.

The Vikings tip off Div. I-A Northern League play at home against Fernley on Friday, Dec. 11. South Tahoe’s nonleague slate includes El Dorado’s Gold Dust Tournament Dec. 3-5, the San Pedro Pirate Shootout Dec. 26-29 and games against Union Mine (El Dorado, Calif.) on Dec. 14 and Damonte Ranch (Reno, Nev.) on Dec. 19.

“We’ve been putting in work all summer, and it’s time for it to pay off,” Sukha said.