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Vikings prove they’re for real

Michael Traum

The South Tahoe High Vikings sent a message in the final of the Viking Rotary Classic on Saturday in South Lake Tahoe.

Tahoe put a scare into the Dominguez Dons, the nation’s No. 3-ranked prep school, losing 66-54. But the score spoke volumes to Tahoe’s opponents as the season swings into high gear – the 1997-98 Vikings are for real.

“We didn’t play this game for respect. We played this game to get pushed and get better. You have to play the best to be the best in the end. We’re very proud of the effort,” said Tahoe coach Tom Orlich.

Whether the Vikes wanted respect or not, it was a factor for Dominguez coach Russell Otis, who prior to the game said his team’s mission was to blow away the Vikes in order to prove whose team was superior.

It nearly backfired.

Tahoe senior Alan Case, in easily his best outing as a Viking, opened the contest with a ripping slam dunk, as Tahoe surged to a 20-15 first- quarter lead. Case, being guarded by Kentucky-bound tournament MVP Tayshaun Prince, sent a message of his own, lighting up the attitude-driven Prince for 11 first quarter points and a game-high 22 total. Prince kept his team in it, connecting on three of his four long-range treys in the period.

“We had nothing to lose and just wanted to play as hard as we could and challenge them. We won’t back down from anybody,” Case said. “On the court, (playing against Prince) had no effect on me. I’m sure when I look back at it, playing against a future star, it’ll mean something knowing I played just as well as he did.”

Dominguez, which was being beaten by Tahoe’s slashing backdoor cuts and quality decision making with the ball, switched from a man defense to a 1-3-1 zone in the second quarter. The result was a 13-2 Dons run. Prince hit a 40-footer and Dominguez began to dominate the glass while picking up the pace. Tahoe had a chance to tie it but missed a three-pointer before Michael Carson nailed his own three ball as the quarter expired with the Dons up, 34-28.

“We knew they couldn’t man-to-man us and we proved that. We had the big lead at the end of the first quarter and we would’ve continued it. We knew if they chased us, that we’d beat them. But they extended to a zone and picked up the tempo. That helped turn it around in their favor,” Orlich said.

The Vikes were outrebounded 9-5 in the first half and 31-11 for the game. Tahoe shot 48 percent from the field, after a 88 percent mark in the first quarter, to Dominguez’s 53 percent overall.

The Vikes saw it slip away to a double-digit deficit when the second 16 minutes began, as the Dons remained in the zone. Steals and rebounding lead to easy layups, pushing the lead to 60-39 with four minutes remaining. Case hit a pair of free throws and a three ball to cut it to 17 with three to play. A 9-2 Tahoe run to close the game, punctuated by a Case jam, made the final score indicative of the overall effort.

“They might not have taken us that seriously. But once we got that lead, they went all out. They almost got beat,” Case said. “We’re disappointed in the loss, but it sends a message that we can hang with anybody in the country.”

Aaron Buckman finished with 13 points for Tahoe (3-1). Prince had 20 points and 10 rebounds for Dominguez (5-0), while Keith Kincade added 14. Walter Small, Kincade, Travis McCollum and Case were named to the all-tournament team with Prince.

John Muir downed Redwood, 104-57, to capture third place, while Atwater defeated Tamalpais, 53-46, and Leuzinger beat Franklin, 63-55.

In the junior varsity tournament, South Tahoe fell to Carson in the championship game, 54-49. Norm Cabanero led the Vikings (3-1) with 12 points, while Andy Butcher added 9 and Tim Sprinkles 8.


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