Viking basketball team looks strong |

Viking basketball team looks strong

Mike Traum

As the curtain rises on the 1997-98 South Tahoe High boys basketball season, the team’s goal remains constant: to hang a banner on the wall.

But while the New Gym stands as a monument to past successes – two state titles, a string of league and zone titles, and the faces of past most valuable players beckoning those prone to stare skyward – the Vikings come off last season in which they didn’t earn a state or league banner for the first time since 1986.

Tahoe was third in the conference, having lost a title shot at home to Sparks, at second at zone, losing an overtime game in the final to Galena.

But beware to whoever dares to overlook this year’s squad. If everything comes together, those in the know think another state title could swing come March.

“We have the potential to be really good. We’re strong in every position. We just have to go out there and work and see if it comes together,” said Alan Case, last year’s leading scorer. “Last year we couldn’t win the big game. This year, we have a chance to win everything. But we can’t just expect it to happen.”

Added Viking head coach Tom Orlich, who begins his 23rd year at STHS, “We’re very mature, very experienced and ahead of what we’ve been in years past. If we play well, we’ll be tough to beat.”

The Vikings will look to three returning starters, Case, Casey Dowling and Greg Bruso, to form the experience nucleus as seniors. Senior Aaron Buckman and junior Josh David add varsity playing time. Behind them stand 10 Vikes who Orlich expects will give his squad significant depth.

“We have a lot of experience this year, more so than in the past. We’ve got good backups at almost every position. There’s no one person that can take this team down, ” said Orlich, who is quick to categorize his optimism. “Quite frankly, it doesn’t mean much what I say at this point because you have to go out and prove it. I feel a lot more comfortable talking about a team after we win some games. But so far, so good.”

But based on the Vikings performances in preseason scrimmages and summertime camp outings, it’s probably safe to say, “So far, so great.”

Tahoe beat Southern California’s Mater Dei and swept a series of contests against some of the top teams in Texas during a tournament in San Antonio this summer in a trip Orlich characterized as one of the most successful since the warm-weather excursions began.

And in scrimmages, Tahoe hung with Jesuit and Florin while slowing just a bit versus Foothill.

“We’ve got potential. But it doesn’t mean anything until we prove it. Until we win a title, we haven’t accomplished anything,” Dowling said.

The Vikings face some formidable competition in their pursuit of a title. Last year’s state runner-up and zone champ Galena returns a starting group which includes front-liner Matt Seibrandt, who recently singed with UNLV, and junior Lance Buoncristiani, a flashy ball-handler with great court awareness. Included in the upper-echelon is Sparks, last year’s league champ, along with McQueen, Carson and Douglas. But party is pervasive come league games.

Tahoe fans can expect much of the same of Vikes familiar style – methodical offense and full-court defense. But look to rebounding, sustained effort and smart shooting as the keys to blue and gold wins.

Through it all, and probably most importantly, look for the boys to carry on the hallowed “tradition” which has made South Tahoe hoops feared throughout the Nevada for longer than some of the players have been alive.

“It about tradition, hard work and caring – caring about how you perform and how you’re viewed. There’s been a lot of great teams in the past. We need to keep it up,” Case said.

The Vikings open league play tonight versus 1996-97 zone qualifier McQueen at 7:30 p.m. at South Tahoe High. Then beginning Thursday, the 24th annual Viking Rotary Classic brings some of the country’s top teams to Tahoe, including No. 2 nationally-ranked Dominguez Hills.

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