South Tahoe improves to 6-0, surpasses last year’s win total
At this time last year, the South Tahoe High boys’ basketball was mired in what turned out be yet another year-long slump for coach Derek Allister. The Vikings went 4-19 and missed the Northern 4A playoffs for the fourth straight year. This past weekend, the Vikings’ past woes might have been erased.
South Tahoe improved to 6-0 this season after winning all five of its games at the Rotary Viking Classic at South Tahoe High School, including a 70-65 win Saturday over Rocklin, one of the better teams in the Sacramento area. This Vikings are off to their best start in Allister’s five years with the program.
“I’m shocked. I knew we had the chance to be a pretty nice team, but I never envisioned this,” said Allister, whose team lost to Rocklin by 18 points in summer ball. “But I think these kids are starting to believe that something nice can come out of this season. I think what you’re seeing is a bunch of kids who enjoy playing basketball together. I haven’t had that here since I’ve been the coach. These kids are really committed to playing basketball and relish playing with each other.”
Jared Wood was named the tournament’s most outstanding player, while Casey Curcie made the all-tournament team. Wood came up big in Thursday’s win over Galt, hitting seven 3-pointers, including six straight during a stretch late in the second half. He scored 34 points in the Vikings’ two wins on Saturday.
Curcie, meanwhile, continued his solid play by scoring 26 points in the win over Rocklin and 16 points in the win over Soquel. He scored a game-high 15 points in a 54-51 win over Elko on Friday night. South Tahoe’s games on Friday and Saturday were played in front of a raucous student section.
“This is the first team that I’ve had here that doesn’t cave under pressure,” Allister said. “They like playing at home. They really seem to feed off the fans. Most of my teams have always played better on the road and I think that’s because they were away from their home fans and all the expectations.”
Against Elko, the Vikings (6-0) trailed 44-43 with 1:30 to play before two big plays put South Tahoe up for good. K.J. Allister knocked down a 3-pointer, then Reid Cocking made a behind-the-back pass in traffic to Wood, who made the basket and was fouled. He converted the three-point play to give the Vikings a 49-44 advantage.
Allister was able to play his entire bench against Soquel, a team he expected the Vikings to beat. Four players scored in the double figures in the 13-point victory, including Conor Freeman, who had 13 points, and Daniel Tinlin, who had 12. Tinlin also recorded eight rebounds, three blocks and four steals for the Vikings, who led by as many as 18 points in the easy win.
Like South Tahoe, Rocklin came into Saturday’s final game as a tournament unbeaten. Allister was worried that his team wouldn’t be able to handle the Thunder’s press, a worry that became a reality in the first quarter. Rocklin jumped out to an 18-8 lead before the Vikings trimmed the lead to 21-18 by the end of the first, aided by a pair of 3-pointers by Curcie. South Tahoe hit four treys in the second quarter to take a 40-39 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, Curcie had four three-pointers and in the fourth quarter K.J. Allister and Wood both made big baskets. Wood had six points in the final two and half minutes and the Vikings hit 8 of 10 free throws down the stretch to seal the victory. South Tahoe hit 10 three-pointers in the victory.
“I was very surprised by the result because I didn’t think we were going to be able to hang with them,” coach Allister said. “I never would’ve thought we could sweep through this tournament like we did. I don’t think there was any question as to who was the best team there. There was no quibbling about that. We finished undefeated and we beat the only other unbeaten team in Rocklin.”
South Tahoe hosts Galena on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The Grizzlies are led by Derek Lorenzen and are one of the favorites in the Northern 4A this season. The Vikings then travel to the Sacramento area on Thursday for a three-day tournament in Colfax.
“Galena will be our first major test,” coach Allister said. “And the big question is whether we can do this on the road. Having success both at home and on the road is really important to the evolution of a basketball team.”