South Tahoe boys b-ball survives shorthanded, downs Dayton 63-48 |

South Tahoe boys b-ball survives shorthanded, downs Dayton 63-48

Anthony Gentile
STHS forward Stone Merkley fires a pass inside against the Dust Devils. Merkley finished with 15 points and six rebounds Tuesday night.
Anthony Gentile / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — The South Tahoe boys basketball team battled illness and a plucky opponent Tuesday night — and survived for a victory. The Vikings pulled away in the fourth quarter to beat visiting Dayton 63-48, prevailing despite missing nearly one-third of their roster.

“It’s fantastic to be able to get a win when you’re down four guys,” Vikings head coach Joby Cefalu said. “I’m really proud of the guys for getting it done tonight.”

South Tahoe knew it would be without guards Mason Cain (season-ending injury) and Tommy Cefalu (leg injury) for Tuesday’s contest — and the Vikings found out in the hours leading up to tipoff they would have to face the Dust Devils minus two more players. Guard Chase Waterman and forward Matt Herring were both sidelined with illness, and neither attended for the game.

“Even the guys that are healthy are fighting this — we have this bug going through the team and it’s just killing us,” Cefalu said. “I’m sanitizing the locker room and telling them all to take their stuff home.”

“I’m really proud of the guys for getting it done tonight.”
Joby Cefalu
Vikings head coach

Nonetheless, South Tahoe (6-7, 3-2 I-A Northern) found a way to close out a tight game and deliver a second straight league victory. The Vikings led by three following the third quarter, and began the fourth quarter on an 11-3 run to dispatch Dayton (3-7, 1-4).

“It was a pure battle — there’s not an easy game in this league, and we’re going to have to come out and battle every single night,” Cefalu said.

Prior to the Vikings’ late surge, they battled the Dust Devils in a back-and-forth contest that was physical throughout. South Tahoe trailed Dayton in each of the first two quarters, but got back in front both times — the Vikings had a one-point lead following the opening frame and took a 34-30 advantage into halftime after forward Stone Merkley converted a three-point play.

“We had some film on Dayton — their record is not indicative of the way they play,” Cefalu said. “They play a great game — they’re physical, they shoot well and I knew it was going to be a battle.”

In the third quarter, Dayton erased South Tahoe’s four-point lead on its first two possessions. Vikings guard Denzel Perez answered with a three-pointer to make the score 37-34 with 7:03 left in the period — and after that, the Vikings maintained at least a narrow advantage the rest of the way.

South Tahoe opened up a seven-point lead with three minutes remaining in the third quarter, but it shrunk to three by the end of the frame. The Vikings led 52-45 midway through the fourth quarter when they put the game away with a pair of baskets 12 seconds apart — Merkley hit a leaner then guard Noah Jackson made a layup following a Perez steal.

“We continually put pressure on teams and when we do that, at some point, it’s either going to break us or break them,” Cefalu said. “It could have gone either way — fortunately my guys finished shots and I’m proud of them for that.”

The Vikings outscored the Dust Devils 18-6 over the last eight minutes to secure the victory. Last season, the teams split their two league meetings.

“I’m extremely proud of my team — hopefully we can get past the injuries and the sickness and move on through league,” Cefalu said.

Forward Tyler Hogbin led South Tahoe with a game-high 18 points to go along with 10 rebounds — and was one of three Vikings in double figures. Merkley finished with 15 points and six rebounds while guard Harry Moses-Chakmakis had 14 points, four steals and three assists — Perez and guard Kirby David added seven apiece.

“It makes us a tough team to scout, because we have so many different guys that can step up on a given night,” Cefalu said.

For Dayton, forward Blake Blocker led the way with 14 points — but was held scoreless in the fourth quarter. Forward Ty Pearson added 13.

South Tahoe returned to action Thursday night at home in a nonleague matchup against Union Mine (El Dorado, Calif.) — the Vikings lost to the Diamondbacks 80-55 in the Gold Dust Tournament earlier this season. STHS resumes league play Saturday, when it hosts Fernley at 2:30 p.m.

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