Vikings can look in mirror at state quarterfinal foe
If they didn’t share the same nickname – Vikings – South Tahoe and Valley high schools still would have plenty of parallels entering Wednesday’s state boys basketball quarterfinal.
Both entrants in the Nevada 4A boys hoops quarterfinal, which tips at 8:10 p.m. Wednesday in Reno prefer up-tempo basketball and both create that with full-court pressure and man defenses. Furthermore, the clubs’ heights are similar inside and outside, making for as interesting a state quarterfinal as any of the four.
“I think it’s the best opening-round game there is,” said first-year Valley coach Gene Carpenter. “It’s a toss-up. I know Tom (Orlich) has a really good team, they play solid and they’re very a disciplined team.”
Valley (17-8) pins its hopes on 6-foot-2, high-scoring off-guard Sam Jackson, 6-6 power forward Chris Sloan and 6-3 small forward Chris Green.
Jackson, a transfer from Florida, averages 21 points per game and exudes talent that has been a rare sight for Carpenter during his 20 years of coaching prep basketball in the Las Vegas area.
“He can be one of the best to come out of Southern Nevada, but he has some real weaknesses right now,” Carpenter said. “He doesn’t move well without the ball and I’m not happy with his defense or his passing.
“If he improves in those areas over the summer, he’s gonna be one of the best to come out of Nevada, because he can shoot it.”
Carpenter wishes Jackson played the game with the same passion Jerod Haase did at STHS from 1988-92 before going on to national prominence at Kansas.
“If he played as hard as Jerod, he’s be awesome,” Carpenter said. “I hold all of my kids to Jerod’s standard. I want them to play that hard.”
Green, who scores 16 points per contest, accompanied the Vikings to Reno in 1998 when they won the state title. He scored 28 points in a 79-57 opening-round Sunrise zone win over Chaparral and 13 in a 66-51 semifinal triumph over Carpenter’s old team, Green Valley.
Sloan, who provides the inside scoring and rebounding, had 14 points against Green Valley.
“We’re more of a defensive-oriented team,” Carpenter said. “We try to play solid defense and focus on that a lot, and that’s why are offense is behind.”
South Tahoe (26-4) can counter with their end-to-end, whirling-dervish point guard, John Giannoni III.
“I feel we have a good chance this year,” said Giannoni, who led all scorers with 14 points in the zone finals Saturday night. “If we just keep playing how we’re playing, moving the ball around and getting some good shots for each other, the sky is the limit.”
Unlike some of the past representatives STHS has sent to state, this Vikings squad has an inside game in 6-4 forward Travis McCollum and 6-7 center Bob Larmore.
“I think it’s gonna be hard,” Larmore said. “I heard there’s some big boys down there, but we’re gonna work our hardest on the boards and offensively.”
Orlich, South Tahoe’s only coach for the past quarter-century, has seen enough Las Vegas teams to know what to expect. But the cagey coach isn’t totally relying on Valley game film to prepare his team for what it will see when the quarterfinal begins at 8:10 p.m. Wednesday.
“Most film doesn’t do justice to teams,” Orlich said. “When we saw the film on Galena earlier in the year, they were so much better than that. Until you play them, you don’t realize how quick they are and how intense they play.
“Valley is used to playing really good teams. We’ll have to play our best basketball to win Wednesday. That’s the way it always is at state.”
South Tahoe has won only one state game since claiming the 1992 Nevada title. With a senior-laden rotation, this may be its best chance to recapture some of that glory.
“We need to come to the reality that it’s one game at a time now,” Giannoni said. “You lose and you’re out. We’ll have to step up big Wednesday, a little better than (Saturday night). We’ll have to cut down on some of our mistakes, and I think we’re going to be OK.”
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