Vikings’ 26-year tourney a mix of new, old faces |

Vikings’ 26-year tourney a mix of new, old faces

STHS will kick off the first round of its home tournament against visiting STHS, in a game that has Vikings head coach Tom Orlich playing the Sax.

Put in a less confusing manner, that means when South Tahoe takes to the hardwood to kick off the Viking Rotary Classic at 6:15 p.m. today, the Vikings take on visiting Santa Theresa from San Jose, Calif., and head coach Adam Sax.

While Santa Theresa, Victor Valley (Victorville, Calif.), Leland (San Jose) and Soquel (Santa Cruz, Calif.) bring new elements to the bracket, this year’s Viking Rotary Classic features more familiar teams for South Tahoe than usual. Still, even though South Tahoe is familiar with all the teams in its home tournament, success for the Vikings will depend on Orlich’s team playing its own game.

“Basically, it’s not who we face, but how we play,” Orlich said.

After Tuesday’s season-opening home loss to visiting McQueen, South Tahoe returned to practice Wednesday as a refocused team. The Vikings worked on all phases of the game plan, but emphasized offense – execution, unselfishness, making the extra pass – after a lack of crispness doomed the Vikings against McQueen.

“Those are the things that were missing,” Orlich said. “We know we can beat anybody we want, and the real South Tahoe team has yet to show up.”

The Vikings appear ready to look past Tuesday’s loss, and benefit from it. Orlich said his team came to practice with a new perspective on Wednesday.

“(Tuesday) night was just basically whatever could go wrong went wrong offensively, and we pray that we’ll never see another game like that again,” Orlich said.

The Vikings tip off against Santa Theresa, which enters the tournament 1-0 after a win over nearby Los Gatos, Calif. While Santa Theresa brings the better record into the host team’s opener, Sax expects the Vikings will be doing the teaching, his team the learning.

“South Tahoe’s a dominant program, and I know they’re going to pressure you,” Sax said. “They’re going to do a lot of good things. It’ll be a learning experience against a really good team.”

Sax described his team’s starting lineup as changing every day, but the unit that takes the floor against South Tahoe brings size, experience and a little grit to the table. Matt Dolen, at 6-6 starts at center and is one of five senior starters. Russ Volksen, 6-3, and 5-8 Paul Driscoll join Dolen in the Santa Theresa frontcourt, in front of 5-7 Tri Lee and 6-0 Darren Fong.

“Defensively, we don’t have a lot of quickness, we don’t have a lot of athleticism, but they did a good job containing the ball,” Sax said. “Offensively, we shot the ball pretty well from the perimeter.”

The winner of the South Tahoe-Santa Theresa game takes on either Atwater or Soquel, which face off in a first-round game at 3 p.m. today. The semifinals are at 8 p.m. Friday, while the losers of the first game meet at 4:40 p.m. Friday.

Soquel already has picked up three wins, one over Los Gatos, the team Santa Theresa defeated in its first game. The squad returns 10 players, and the starting front line of 6-3 center John Beverage, 6-1 Casey Curtiss and 6-5 Nate Rockhold from the squad that won the 1998 Viking Rotary Classic consolation championship.

“I think we’re going to be solid for our league,” said Soquel head coach Stu Walters, who brought a number of his players to the South Shore for this summer’s team camp. “I think we’ll be all right.”

Walters rated his team as comparable to Santa Theresa. If he and Orlich both can coach their way to first-round wins, they’ll meet in the second round. Walters rated South Tahoe as the team to beat in his bracket primarily because of the wilting full-court pressure the Vikings employ.

“I think they’re a mentally tough team that defends really well and executes their offense,” Walters said.

The other bracket matches two teams with which South Tahoe is very familiar – Elko and Douglas – with San Jose’s Leland and Victor Valley, the team that took the longest trip for the tournament. Victor Valley tips off against 6-9 Nevada signee Sean Paul and Elko – a team South Tahoe knocked out of last year’s zone tournament – at 4:30 today. Leland, which is 1-0 after a 49-46 win over Live Oak, Calif., takes on Douglas at 7:45 p.m. today.

“We pressed pretty well,” said Leland head coach Mike Triolo. “We were pretty patient on offense.”

Like Atwater, Soquel and Saint Theresa, Leland is a California school that is familiar with South Tahoe through participation in Orlich’s summer camps. And like many of the other coaches in the tournament, Triolo has heard good things about the 1999 Vikings. But one team Triolo knows fairly well is Santa Theresa, South Tahoe’s first-round opponent, which played in the same league as Leland last season.

One of Santa Theresa’s best players graduated last year, but center Dolen impressed Triolo last season.

“He’s big,” Triolo said. “He’s a decent-sized kid. He’s got some nice moves underneath.”

The teams to advance from each bracket to the championship game meet at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The consolation championship, at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, matches the two teams that lose in the first round, but win the rest of their games.

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