Vikings lose opener in heartbreaking fashion
There were flashes of brilliance and signs of inexperience in South Tahoe High’s first game of the Viking Classic as the Vikings fell to Atwater 53-51 in overtime in their boys basketball opener Thursday.
In head coach Derek Allister’s first game at the helm of the Vikings, his young squad showed signs of becoming a very good team by the end of the season.
“I didn’t get them to the point where we could win this game,” Allister said. “Everyone in the gym could see this was a group of nervous young men who wanted to win the game.”
South Tahoe trailed for most of the first half as Atwater used inside bulk to its advantage and forced the Vikings to settle for long-range jumpers.
“I was disappointed with the way we played in the first half,” Falcons coach John Kane said. “We could have even a bigger lead if we had taken care of the ball better.”
As it was, Atwater went into the break with a 27-24 lead.
In the second half, however, South Tahoe’s jumpers began to fall. Senior guard Matt Connelly and junior point guard Matt Mora sank two early three pointers to give the Vikings their first lead of the contest at 30-27.
“We began to get up and down the court better,” said Connelly, who paced the Vikings with 19 points. “I was beginning to get closer shots and better looks.”
Then in early in the fourth quarter Mora, who had been battling foul trouble all night, picked up his fourth on a technical.
With his departure from the game, South Tahoe seemed to have trouble breaking the Atwater press. The offense seemed to stall as the Vikings only managed six points in the final period.
“Losing Matt was losing a big part of our team,” Connelly said. “When he went out, we didn’t have guys playing where they were used to playing.”
But Atwater let the Vikings stay in the game because of missed shots and the Falcons’ top player Corey Fagon was wearing down. South Tahoe pulled within a few points by exploiting the middle when Fagon was on the bench.
“He’s a guy we want to keep on the court the whole time,” Kane said. “As long as he’s not passing out, he’ll be out there.”
Ryan Cullen tied the game at 45 with 50 seconds left when he nailed both ends of a one-and-one at the free-throw line.
“Ryan came off the bench and did an amazing job,” Allister said. “For someone who hasn’t played basketball in two years, he battled and hung in there.”
The game went into overtime all knotted up at 45. Connelly opened the extra period with a basket before Ryan Diggs answered with a baseline jumper.
Mora came down and hit an NBA-range three -pointer, for three of his 19 points, to put the Vikings up three, 50-47.
The Falcons scored four unanswered points to go ahead by one. With time running out, Connelly was called for an intentional foul, trying to stop the clock. But John McArthur was called for a technical for taunting Connelly.
The two teams exchanged free throws, leaving the Vikings down one and possession of the ball.
Mora got an open look from outside the arc, but passed it up for a drive and wasn’t able to get a shot off as time expired.
The Vikings take on Leland on Friday at 4:40 p.m. in the consolation bracket.
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