Viking cagers bounce back
While South Tahoe High’s boys were turning over a new leaf on the basketball court Thursday, their opponents from Santa Theresa were simply turning it over.
The Vikings dismantled the visiting Saints 82-46 in the first round of the Viking Rotary Classic, harrying the visiting Saints into 26 turnovers. Tom Orlich’s floor-burn all-stars terrorized Santa Theresa’s ball-handlers with a full-court press, nearly doubling a 16-point halftime lead in the third quarter. The Vikings bounced back from an opening-game loss to McQueen on Tuesday to advance to the second round of their home tournament.
“We like to do that every game, but unfortunately last Tuesday – we don’t want to keep talking about that a whole lot – but we weren’t able to do that,” said South Tahoe senior point guard John Giannoni III. “Tonight, we were able to.
“We executed a lot better on offense, and that’s what helped a lot,” Giannoni said. “Once you get the offense working, the steals, the defensive help and the rotation will fall behind together.”
South Tahoe built a 41-25 halftime lead, but didn’t let its visitors from San Jose, Calif., back into the game. Santa Theresa began the half with two straight five-second violations before running a play.
“We practiced like that, and we came out and played like that,” said South Tahoe senior forward Travis McCollum, who led four Vikings starters in double figures, scoring 13 and adding eight rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block. “We were a lot more focused than we were before, a lot more precision passing. We still didn’t do that great. We made a step forward.
“We did well scoring off our defense,” said McCollum, who set the tone early by hitting the floor for a loose ball. “Our defense created lots of points for us.”
The pressure started off the bat. Saints guards Tri Le and Paus Driscoll had trouble handling the press, committing nine turnovers in the first quarter. South Tahoe committed three straight turnovers before senior guard Matt Williams sparked the offense with a three-pointer. With the offense running much smoother, South Tahoe started the game on a 10-2 run.
Matt Dolen led Santa Theresa with 13 points, but scored all 11 for the Saints in the first quarter. Dennis Fong added 10, but also did much of his damage in the first half, scoring eight in the second quarter.
“Our kids are being more unselfish, disciplined,” Orlich said.
Orlich listed the first step as taking care of the ball, then making the extra pass. When the offense was working against Santa Theresa, South Tahoe was able to move the ball inside to its big men, McCollum, Bob Larmore and Chris Ortiz, and all were able to score in the paint. While Orlich said his squad still is a long way from where it wants to be in terms of execution, he hopes South Tahoe will continue to make progress.
“Hopefully, we’re just going to improve night-in and night-out,” he said.
The next chance to show just how much progress the Vikings have made comes at 8 p.m. Friday against Soquel, from near Santa Cruz, Calif. Soquel advanced into the semifinals with a 70-51 win over Atwater, Calif.
“They just executed really good on offense,” said Giannoni, who had a chance to watch the earlier game. “They passed the ball really well. We’re just going to have to rotate the ball pretty good and get on the floor and block everybody out.”
While Orlich credited Santa Theresa for its scrappy play, he estimated the Saints ran out of gas playing against South Tahoe’s press for 32 minutes. The 25th-year head coach expects something different from Soquel.
“We’ve seen them, and they come to our camp every year, and (coach) Stu Walters does a great job with them, so I expect them to know exactly what we’re going to do” Orlich said. “They’ll be well-prepared, and I expect a great game.”
Soquel enters today’s game 4-0 after the opening-round win. South Tahoe’s next opponent likely will start 6-3 center John Beverage, along with 6-1 Casey Curtiss and 6-5 Nate Rockwell on the front line. Two-guard Steve Ledoux mans the backcourt along with point guard Skye Thomas.
“We like to play a lot of different styles,” Walters said. “We like to run when we have it, but we also like to think we can execute in the half-court.”
While Walters anticipates his team being competitive in its league, he seems to know what kind of pressure is coming toward his squad in Friday’s game.
“It’s tough to play for the whole game,” Walters said. “If they don’t get you at one point, they get you later in the game by wearing you out.”
South Tahoe’s junior varsity also put together a convincing win on Thursday, rolling over North Tahoe 70-39. Christian Piol led South Tahoe’s JV with 14 points.
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