Vikings lose in state semifinal
The North put up a fight, but the South rose again. Valley High downed Las Vegas, 58-49, to win the U.S. Bank/NIAA 4A boys basketball state championship on Saturday at Lawlor Events Center.
South Tahoe bowed out to Las Vegas in the semis, 66-53, while Valley earned a spot in the finals with a win over pre-tournament favorite Galena, 54-52. Both semifinals were on Friday at Lawlor.
In the South Tahoe game, the Vikings entered the fourth quarter tied with the more athletic Wildcats, 44-44. Tahoe took a quick lead on a Casey Dowling scoop layup as the period opened, but the Wildcats reeled off 10 straight points and outscored the Vikes 22-9 in the last eight minutes.
“The big difference was the close game,” said Las Vegas coach Tom Farnsworth, whose team became familiar with narrow battles during its league season. “With about four minutes to go we went to a zone. It took away a lot of their back screens. They missed a couple of shots and we came down and made a couple.”
During the Wildcat run, Tahoe had at least three possessions with just one shot and no offensive rebound. Coach Tom Orlich, who admitted his team could have played better, pointed the finger at questionable calls down the stretch.
“We took the ball to the basket three or four times and got no calls. We got one shot on the baseline where they took Aaron Buckman’s arm and pulled it down right in front of me. That just kills you when you see that,” Orlich said. “I’m not one to ever want to talk about officials, but that was the turning point. I don’t know what else to say. I could be a good guy and be a liar or I could tell you the truth. We just weren’t getting the calls.”
South Tahoe’s typical methodical play got them to the fourth quarter even. Down 15-11 after the first period, Dowling gave Tahoe its first lead with a three ball to open the second. The Vikes’ largest lead of the half, four points, came on an Alan Case 15-footer with 5:00 to go. The Wildcats answered with an 11-1 run, aided by three straight treys, pushing their advantage to 29-23 with 2:10 left. Buckets by Greg Bruso and Dowling made it 29-27 after 16 minutes.
“They could penetrate and pretty much do it all. But it wasn’t like they could dominate. We could hold our own. It just came down to that last quarter,” said Case, who had a team-high 16 points.
Dowling and Case each gave Tahoe three-point leads in the third quarter while Travis McCollum and Buckman each posted the Vikes’ biggest lead of four on open jumpers.
But after Case’s layup to open the fourth, Tahoe didn’t score again until two Case free throws with 3:18 to play. By that time, the Vikes were down, 54-48.
“They hit big shots, we missed them,” said Dowling, who netted 15 points. “It’s just a dream to play for the state championship. To be so close, it’s hard to deal with. We played as hard as we could. The loose balls just went their way and their shots went in. There’s not much more to say.”
Orlich complimented his team for its season-long overcoming of a lack of key players, a group which posted the school’s best record since 1991-92 of 27-6.
“I’ll be honest. This is one of the teams that surprised me. We didn’t have a legitimate point guard or post man. Those are the two most important positions in basketball. Alan converted to the point, Casey converted to the post. We just threw up a lot of mirrors and we really overachieved,” he said. “I told them I was proud of them and the year they had. We had a great ride and have no regrets.”
In the other semifinal, Galena overcame a 32-19 halftime deficit, taking the lead, 50-49, with one minute left. Brian Vaka had a chance to tie or win as regulation expired, but tripped and lost the ball while driving to the basket. The Grizzlies had a 6-2 lead early, but Valley gained momentum on a Lance Buoncristiani technical foul, going on a 13-0 run.
Notes: It was the sixth consecutive title for a Southern school and 35th banner since 1960. Only Tahoe (1987, 91), Carson (1976) and Reno (1964) have captured the title for the North. There were two Southern champs during a split 1983-84 season … Valley won its first banner since a string of four straight in 1981-84 … Orlich’s point seemed to be substantiated with the apparent favoritism by the Southern Nevada official for a Las Vegas player. At one point in the second quarter, the Northern official in the two-man crew signaled a two-pointer for a Vegas jumper. A minute or so later, the player complained to the Southern referee that it was actually a three-pointer and the ref made the change in the scorebook. “I think the scorekeeper had a bad game. We couldn’t get a sub in. At one point they took 1:35 off the clock. And I even think we talked them into a foul at one point,” Farnsworth said.
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