Tournament to showcase bumper crop of stars, title-hungry North
Only one thing is certain as the Nevada 4A boys state basketball tournament opens today in Reno: There will be a new champion come Friday.
Defending champion Valley High wasn’t among the four Las Vegas-area school to qualify for the hotly debated Southern Nevada Zone championship last weekend.
South Tahoe is the only Northern school to win a state title since Carson City gave the capital city something to cheer about in 1976. The Vikings won state crowns in 1992 and 1987.
While Southern first-round sweeps have been commonplace since the Vikings appeared in the finals in 1991 and 1992. However, the Vikings and three-time reigning Northern champion Galena broke through with opening-round wins a year ago.
That could happen again, according to Galena coach Tom Maurer.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if two more win this year,” Maurer said. “Reed has the best chance. Reed’s 10th player could start for me. He’s loaded with talent, and I’m jealous.”
Sparks, which beat the Vikings in the zone third-place game and is led by 6-foot-6 senior center Randy Messenger, starts the 4A action with a Southern zone runner-up Durango at 10:35 a.m. at Lawlor Events Center on the University of Nevada campus. Durango lost the zone championship to Cheyenne, 92-81.
With Kevin Gaines capable of pouring in 30 points and grabbing 15 rebounds per game, Clark (21-10) is a threat to go all the way. The Chargers open with multifaceted Reed at 12:10 p.m.
Maurer said don’t count out Cimarron-Memorial, which lost to Cheyenne by two points in the zone semifinals and lost the third-place game in overtime. Cimarron-Memorial challenges Galena at 3:20 p.m.
“Hank Girardi’s team is a legit No. 1,” Maurer said. “He’s one of the few coaches in Vegas who is a true coach. He’s a father to lot of those kids and he does the best thing for those kids.”
Ironically, Maurer allowed the Spartans to practice in his Galena gym on Tuesday night.
“We are very loyal to each other. When we go to Vegas to play, we’re his sister school and when he comes up here it’s the same,” Maurer said. “We’re bummed out we’re meeting in the first round instead of the finals.”
Interestingly, Galena senior point guard Lance Buoncristiani opened his prep career against the Spartans, tossing in 27 points in a double overtime defeat.
“We hope to God he doesn’t play his first and last game against Cimarron,” Maurer said.
“No question Lance is one of the most skilled players I’ve seen. He’s able to do a lot of things and he doesn’t turn it over much,” Orlich said. “He incorporates the other players into their offense so well, because he passes it so well.”
South Tahoe and Cheyenne (26-5) close out the boys’ first-day session at 6:30 p.m.
“I’ve seen too much of what Tom Orlich can do. He’s a great coach. I feel sorry that Cheyenne has to play them. Cheyenne is a run-and-gun team against a ball-control team. They’re in for a rude awakening.”
In any case, the North will be hard-pressed to collect its first state in seven years. Orlich believes the Southern teams don’t really turn it on until they reach Reno.
“They don’t regard zone as a big deal. Zone is just for seeding,” Orlich said.
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