South Tahoe boys b-ball suffers first league loss
WINNEMUCCA, Nev. — The South Tahoe boys basketball team had a chance to make a statement against Lowry Friday night — and let the opportunity get away. The Vikings fell to the Buckaroos 63-49 on the road for their first defeat in league play.
“It’s a disappointing loss,” Vikings head coach Joby Cefalu said. “Lowry is a perennial powerhouse in our league, and we have to start beating those teams in their house to get to the place we want to be at in league.”
South Tahoe (3-3, 1-1 I-A Northern) got off to a slow start, and trailed 20-9 at the end of the first quarter. Lowry (5-4, 1-0) maintained that 11-point advantage at halftime after an even second quarter — three Vikings starters battled foul trouble in the first half as the team fought to stay in the game.
“The game was called evenly — there were a lot of fouls called,” Cefalu said of the tightly officiated game. “It’s something that we need to be able to adjust to.”
The Vikings trailed Lowry by 10 after the third quarter — and began their rally early in the fourth. With 3:48 left, a pair of free throws from guard Tommy Cefalu brought South Tahoe within six — then an unfortunate technical foul derailed its comeback chances.
“We actually had momentum and were doing all the things we needed to do,” Cefalu said.
Cefalu tried to call a timeout from the bench after the free throws, but none of the officials recognized his request — he voiced his displeasure, then sat down. Shortly after that exchange an obscenity from the crowd was mistakenly attributed to the Vikings’ head coach, which resulted in a technical — Lowry made one of the free throws and got the ball back.
“We just couldn’t overcome that situation,” Cefalu said.
South Tahoe came as close as eight points in the last two minutes — but a pair of quick baskets from Lowry put the game out of reach. The Buckaroos followed up their 14-point win over the Vikings with a 57-48 victory over Dayton the following day.
“Our league is one where every team is going to be competitive every night,” Cefalu said. “We have to bring our ‘A’ game and if we don’t, we’re going to see the result that we saw.”
Forward Stone Merkley led South Tahoe with 12 points in the loss, and guard Kirby David finished with 10. Guard Chase Waterman added eight points, Tommy Cefalu had six, guard Denzel Perez finished with five, and forward Tyler Hogbin had four — Waterman, Perez and Hogbin each had two fouls early in the first half.
In the loss, the Vikings shot 33 percent from two-point range, 25 percent from beyond the arc and 56 percent at the free-throw line. South Tahoe took the court Friday without guard Mason Cain — likely out with a season-ending knee injury — and lost guard Harry Moses-Chakmakis to an ankle injury in the first quarter.
“We tried some different combinations of players and tried to find ourselves outside of our eight rotation players,” Cefalu said.
South Tahoe returns to action Friday, when they begin play at the San Pedro Pirate Shootout in San Pedro, Calif. The Vikings open against Executive Preparatory Academy of Finance (Hawthorne, Calif.), the first of four games in a five-day span.
“We’re excited about what we’re doing and where we’re headed — the competition in L.A. will get us prepared for our big run in league,” Cefalu said.
The Vikings make their home debut Jan. 2 against defending league champion Elko. That contest will end a stretch of 10 straight road games to start the season.
“We’re excited about that — we’re looking forward to the community coming out to watch a really exciting South Tahoe team that works hard and plays hard,” Cefalu said. “When we bring our ‘A’ game, we can compete against and beat anybody in the north.”