Valley Vikings undaunted by state matchup with STHS
South Tahoe High’s first-round state opponent believes the Vikings will be hard-pressed to win its third boys state basketball championship later this week in Reno.
The Vikings (26-4) learned on Sunday they will meet Sunset Region runner-up Valley in an 8:10 p.m. Nevada 4A state quarterfinal on Wednesday at Lawlor Events Center.
“It’s going to be tough for a Northern team to beat three Southern teams this year, because Durango, Gorman and Las Vegas have some talent,” said Valley first-year coach Gene Carpenter. “They may beat us because we’re too inexperienced and too inconsistent to be successful at the state tournament.”
Valley (17-8) nearly came away with the South’s top seed after leading Las Vegas 50-46 with 5 minutes remaining in its zone final Saturday. But Las Vegas caught fire in the closing minutes, converting several key 3-pointers and transition layups for a 66-62 championship win.
The Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association determined before the season that the Sunrise champion received the region’s top seed, while the runner-up dropped to the fourth seed. The Sunrise final, which matched Bishop Gorman and Durango, filled in the region’s second and third seeds.
That bracketing change left Valley with the enormous task of opening state against the North’s best. Yet Carpenter doesn’t mind the matchup with the Vikings. He’s coached against Orlich before, beating the Vikings once at state during a six-year stint at Green Valley.
“We won that one pretty easily, but we had a pretty good team that year,” Carpenter said. “We play a lot of man defense, so it should be a nice matchup.”
Valley won the 1998 state championship, but only one player returns from that team – 6-foot-3 small forward Chris Green. Green played junior varsity and was called up to accompany the varsity to state that year.
Orlich was pleased to learn Sunday his Vikings won’t open with Bishop Gorman, No. 1 in the state for much of the season, or Durango. However, he feels any team from Las Vegas is a major challenge.
“Any time you prepare for a Vegas team, you have to prepare for all types of pressure, the transition running game and stopping their second shots,” Orlich said. “It’s not anything we’re unaccustomed to. We’ve seen good teams all year.
“We’re not going to make any big adjustments.”
Orlich’s emotions were still running high Sunday, a day after the Vikings delivered his ninth zone championship.
“It’s a moment you’ll always have,” he said. “It’s all this adrenaline in you and savoring every minute. It’s kind of unexpected; it’s not like we dominated all year.
“Considering the competition we had in the conference, this might be one of the most special zone championships we’ve ever had.”
The Vikings hope that emotion will carry them through three more victories.
“The sky is the limit right now,” said Vikings senior guard John Giannoni III. “We’re emotionally high, and we’re playing good right now, so it will be neat to see what happens down there.”
The survivor of the STHS-Valley quarterfinal meets the Reno-Durango winner at 6:35 p.m. in Thursday’s second semifinal.
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