Tahoe in unusual position | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tahoe in unusual position

Steve Yingling

As the king of Northern Nevada League boys basketball over the past 15 years, South Tahoe High hasn’t been in too many postseason predicaments.

But they are today.

“Our backs are against the wall. If we lose, the season is over,” said Viking 22-year coach Tom Orlich. “But I have a tough group of kids who have a lot of character. I’m not worried about them showing up to play. We have to go out and have a good night.”

Tahoe, 16-10 overall, must win its zone quarterfinal tonight at Wooster or next week’s state tournament won’t include the Vikings for the first time since the school joined the Northern Nevada League in 1982.

“There’s definitely pressure. We put pressure on ourselves to achieve. It would be a major disappointment if we didn’t come out on top in this game,” said Viking senior guard Nick Romagnolo. “If we play well, I don’t think there’s anyone that can beat us.”

The Vikings have only been in three other must-win first-round zone games – 1983, 1986 and last year when the Vikings responded by crushing Reno 71-50.

“We’re very disappointed with the way things have turned out lately. We just need to go over to Wooster and play our best basketball in order to win,” said Orlich, whose Vikings finished third behind Sparks and Galena in Division II with a 7-3 record.

With the league discarding first-round byes for regular-season champions this season, the zone’s seven other clubs will face the same pressure as the Vikings.

“Any time you play South Tahoe it’s going to be a tough task. Their program and tradition speak for itself. We have a tough road ahead, but thank goodness we’re at home,” said Allen, whose Colts are 7-2 at home.

Wooster, 19-6 overall, has been perhaps the league’s biggest surprise, especially considering that the Colts have been winning with seven or eight players.

“The key to our season has been staying healthy, plus we won the close games and we had a tough preseason schedule,” said Wooster coach Dick Allen. “Our conditioning isn’t going to be a factor. We’ve done a lot of conditioning.”

Allen knows firsthand. He and his two assistants are in pretty good shape these days. They work out with their players so they can scrimmage full court.

“It’s been that way for the better part of the year. We’ve had three or four guys who have gone 32 minutes every game. But we’ll have a pretty huge roster (tonight) – nine,” said a chuckling Allen, who is bringing up three junior varsity players.

Since the Vikings press constantly and reach five or six deep on the bench, the thin Colts might be advised to invest in a supply of oxygen. But Allen feels his small pack of Colts won’t be affected by the numbers game.

“The chemistry with this team is great. With these players and coaches we’ve gotten a real feel for what we want to do. Plus, no player is worried about playing time. I think they’ve handled it well,” Allen said.

South Tahoe will have its hands full defensively. Wooster has a balanced offense, which is led by 6-foot, 2-inch senior Kevin Kallio. Kallio is affective inside and outside and averages 20.2 points per game.

“Personally, I’m going to be hounding whoever I guard. (Last Friday) Douglas was sort of slacking off, letting them catch the ball. We’ll make them work hard for everything, and hopefully, it will wear them down,” Romagnolo said.

Kallio doesn’t have to win games single-handedly. Scoring also comes from Roger Andrew, a 6-3 senior point guard; Raul Guzman, a 6-3 senior center; and Derek Burley, a 5-9 sophomore three-point specialist.

“It’s probably one of their most-talented groups. They are exceptionally good offensively and are excellent athletes. They’re very-well coached and very tough to beat at home as is anybody that is a contender in this league,” Orlich said.

After taking Jesuit, one of California’s best, down to the final second before losing 49-47 Saturday, and evenly battling division champion Sparks for 27 minutes Friday, Orlich says improvement needs to come in a few areas if his Vikings are to be successful this week.

“We have to do well on the boards, that was the difference in the Sparks game. We were unable to rebound defensively,” Orlich said. “We’re really concerned because Wooster is a good offensive team, so there’s no question defense, rebounding and our ability to execute offensively are the three keys to this game.”

Allen’s concerns start with Viking junior point guard Alan Case.

“First and foremost, we have to contain Case and handle their pressure,” he said. “We have to be ready to play because we know Tom’s team is going to come in and play hard.”

Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. in Reno. Tahoe fans shouldn’t have trouble purchasing tickets, according to Wooster Athletic Director Craig Congdon.

“We’ve drawn decently, but we haven’t come close to a sellout,” Congdon said.

The winner of tonight’s game receives two days rest and will meet the Sparks-Reno survivor in one zone semifinal Friday in Carson City.

The Nevada Appeal contributed to this story.

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