South Tahoe boys b-ball stifles Sparks on Senior Night, stays in playoff hunt
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — The South Tahoe boys basketball team set up a likely winner-take-all season finale for the last playoff spot in Div. I-A Northern League while celebrating its seven seniors on Tuesday night. The Vikings beat Sparks 47-34 at the STHS Blue Gym during Senior Night, riding a fast start and suffocating defense to victory.
“We’re rolling down the road right now and we can’t be stopped — we have great energy on our whole team,” Vikings forward Stone Merkley said. “We’re playing for Bailey (Johnson), coach Cefalu’s mom and each other — those are our driving forces.”
South Tahoe (13-11, 9-6 I-A Northern) had a 13-2 lead after the opening quarter, and extended it with the first five points of the second. The Vikings held Sparks (7-16, 3-12) scoreless for an eight-minute stretch while racing out to an 18-2 advantage, and took a 23-12 lead into the break.
Four straight points from Merkley to start the second half put South Tahoe ahead by 15, and the Vikings had a least a 13-point lead for the rest of the game. STHS guard Chase Waterman beat the third-quarter buzzer with a putback that gave the Vikings a 36-21 lead.
South Tahoe opened up a 20-point lead with 1:57 to play on a layup from guard Kirby David. The Vikings went onto win by 13 and complete the season sweep of Sparks.
“There was a huge change after the Truckee game — we realized that they just outworked us and they beat us,” said Waterman, who was accepted to the University of Oregon on Monday. “We came together as a team after that — we realized that defense is where it’s going to start, because it creates turnovers and leads to our fast break.”
Merkley led South Tahoe with a game-high 19 points in the win, David added seven points while Waterman and guard Denzel Perez each finished with six. The Vikings didn’t allow a Sparks player to score in double figures in the win — guard Vhernon Trinidad had a team-high nine points for the Railroaders.
The Vikings celebrated their senior class with a ceremony prior to tipoff Tuesday night. That group features David, Merkley, Waterman, forward Tyler Hogbin, guard Aaron Pfister, forward Matt Herring and forward Michal Lis.
“This group means everything to me — I’ve become so close to each and every one of them and it’s truly like a brotherhood,” Hogbin said. “I’d put my life on the line for every single one of them — and every player on this team.”
“We’re a fun group, we all have a passion for the sport and we all love what we’re doing — the thing I love most about this group is that we’re willing to fight for each other,” Herring added.
All of South Tahoe’s seniors walked to midcourt with their families with the exception of Lis, a foreign exchange student from Poland. Lis instead took the floor with his junior and sophomore teammates, his family on the hardwood.
“I’m an exchange student and I don’t have family — they’re like my family,” Lis said. “When I need something they help me, and it’s good to have someone like that here.”
Tuesday’s win was South Tahoe’s fourth straight, and set up a possible winner-take-all showdown for the last playoff spot with Fallon on Saturday afternoon at STHS. If Fallon (11-12, 8-6) wins at Sparks Friday night, the winner of Saturday’s Vikings-Greenwave contest would secure a playoff berth in the regular season finale — should the Greenwave lose to the Railroaders, South Tahoe could advance even with a loss.
“We know how to work hard, we never stop working hard and we’re never going to stop working hard,” David said. “We’re ready to play Saturday against Fallon and I’m stoked for this group — combined we are so much stronger than we are apart.”
South Tahoe hosts Fallon on Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. The Vikings hope to play before a big home crowd for their last home game of the season — and biggest contest of their 2014-15 campaign.
“To this point, it’s the biggest game of our lives,” Hogbin said. “It would be incredible to have a big crowd for that.”
“A big crowd would mean a lot — it’s the seniors’ last game on this court,” Pfister said. “It would be really motivating.”
VIKINGS JV BOYS BEAT RAILROADERS
The South Tahoe junior varsity boys basketball team beat Sparks on Tuesday night as part of a four-game varsity and JV sweep. The Vikings beat the Railroaders 38-28 at STHS Blue Gym.
South Tahoe had a 19-14 lead at halftime in the 10-point victory. Dylan Gooding scored a team-high 11 points in the win, and shot 7-for-8 from the free-throw line.
Zen Contestable and Anthony Ramos scored six points apiece for the Vikings against Sparks, with Tyler Ritter and Robert Cage each adding five. Jesus Zepeda scored three points while Dustin Ruger added two.
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SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — South Tahoe roared into the baseball season.