Vikings return to postseason
By Steve Yingling
Tribune sports editor
Since the new millennium, no team has dominated the South Tahoe High Vikings like the Carson Senators.
Carson’s mystique over the Vikings was in full swing on Saturday when the Senators rallied from a 15-point second-half deficit to take a three-point lead with a little more than 3 minutes remaining.
But these Vikings had come too far during the past four seasons to let their nemesis spoil their postseason plans.
South Tahoe used two key turnovers and a go-ahead basket by senior center Joel Keegan to escape with a 50-47 boys’ basketball victory, ending Carson’s 11-game mastery of the Vikings.
“I’ve been playing the Carson Senators two times a year since seventh grade and I hadn’t beaten them once. The last time I play them, I beat them. That’s just icing on the cake,” said South Tahoe senior Jared Wood, who made a pair of pressure-packed foul shots inside 10 seconds to secure the win.
More importantly for the Vikings (15-9 overall, 8-4 division), they clinched a spot in the Northern 4A Regional Tournament for the first time since Tom Orlich left the program following the 1999-2000 season. The third-place Vikings hold a two-game lead over fourth-place North Valleys with two to play.
“I call Carson the vampires because you have to kill them like four times before they’re dead,” said STHS coach Derek Allister. “It’s good to get the win, because I’m really happy for the kids.”
Carson seemed to be in control when Zach Weismann scored on a drive to the basket while being hacked by Keegan. Weismann, however, who struggled at the foul line, missed the charity toss and the Senators led 47-44 with 3:18 to go.
Enhancing the Senators chances of winning at that point was the absence of STHS’s slick ballhandler and shooter Conor Freeman, who fouled out with a little more than 5 minutes remaining. But the Vikings didn’t wilt under pressure without their senior guard.
The Senators missed a chance to increase their lead, and STHS reserve Michael Anstett’s steal and subsequent pair of free throws trimmed Carson’s lead to a point. Anstett also made two free throws earlier in the fourth period after subbing in for Freeman, who fouled out with 5:11 to go and the Vikings clinging to a one-point lead.
“I kind of looked around and there was kind of a worried look in a lot of the kids’ eyes,” coach Allister said. “And Michael Anstett is just a real solid customer. He’s responded numerous times, as far as being able to be tough down the stretch.”
The next big play for STHS was turned in by K.J. Allister, son of the Vikings’ head coach. K.J. forced a held ball near midcourt with 1:46 left and the Vikings’ were awarded the ball on the alternating possession.
K.J. missed a long three-point attempt and Carson had a chance to restore a three-point lead.
But Jack Jacquet missed a pair of free throws, and Keegan made the Senators pay by converting a half hook from 10 feet for a 48-47 STHS lead.
Carson didn’t get a chance to go ahead as K.J. came up with another steal. With the clock ticking under 20 seconds the Senators trapped Vikings’ reserve Vince Capellino in the baseline corner. Coach Allister called a quick time-out, setting up an inbound pass to Keegan, who found Anstett alone underneath the basket. Anstett declined a reverse layup attempt and dribbled outside and passed to Jared Wood, who was fouled with 8.7 left.
Wood, who made four crucial foul shots the night before at Douglas, calmly sank both free throws to put the Vikings ahead 50-47.
“I’d rather have me take the shots than anyone else. I’d be mad if someone else missed them,” Wood said.
Kevin Brush, who sank a pair of trifectas earlier, went for the tie but his three-point attempt only found rim. Keegan came down with the rebound but missed two free throws with .4 left.
The second miss didn’t allow Carson enough time to get off a desperation shot.
“We finally beat Carson. It’s been too long,” K.J. said. “We just kept our composure and stuck do what we’ve been doing all year.”
Afterward, Carson coach Bruce Barnes was at a loss to explain why his Senators have beaten the Vikings like a drum until Saturday.
“I don’t have the answer. I wish I did, because I would have used it,” Barnes said. “Derek’s a good coach and has them well-prepared. It’s just one of those things, for whatever reason.”
The Senators, after scoring a disappointing six points in the second period, swung the momentum early in the second half by applying full-court pressure and trapping in the half court.
A 10-foot baseline jumper by K.J. put the Vikings ahead 30-15 at the outset of the third quarter, but Carson stormed back on the strength of the three-point shooting of Brush and Adam Houghton. Houghton hit two threes and Brush made another as the Senators pulled with 37-33 with :45 remaining in the quarter.
“They are a very physical team, and the one thing about Bruce’s teams those guys never give up, they never stop,” coach Allister said.
But when the Senators finally got the lead and pushed it to three points, Barnes elected to call off his press.
“We accomplished what we wanted … the lead,” Barnes said. “After that we just needed to play straight man-to-man defense and not give up any threes. At that point, if we would have gotten a stupid foul, it would have stopped the clock and it wouldn’t have benefited us.”
Wood led South Tahoe with 17 points. Houghton led the Senators with 14 points, while Brush and Weismann netted 10.
Friday’s game at Douglas also came down to the final minute and seniors Freeman and Wood responded in the clutch. Freeman canned a trifecta from the corner to put STHS ahead by a point with :45 left.
Wood made four consecutive free throws, giving him eight for the quarter, and K.J. added two more to seal the 53-48 victory.
“We just made every right play inside the last minute,” coach Allister said. “We won that game in practice. Every day in practice we spend half an hour playing two-minute games, one-minute games where the kids have to execute.”
South Tahoe held Douglas 6-9 center Keith Olson to three points through three quarters and he finished with 11.
Keegan topped the Vikings with 16 points, and Wood and Freeman contributed 12 apiece.
VIKINGS 50, SENATORS 47
CARSON – Teeter 1-2, 0-0, 2; Houghton 5-8, 2-2, 14, Weismann 3-10, 3-10, 10; Kevin Bush 4-6, 0-0, 10; Valerius 0-1, 0-0, 0; Jacquet 1-2, 0-2, 2; Wilson 0-3, 0-0, 0; Leatham 0-0, 1-2, 1; Jeffers 2-2, 5-6, 9. Totals 16-34, 11-22, 47.
SOUTH TAHOE – Freeman 2-5, 1-2, 6; Cocking 0-1, 0-0, 0; Wood 5-9, 7-7, 17; Keegan 5-12, 2-4, 12; Allister 2-4, 4-4, 9; Anstett 1-2, 4-4, 6; Capellino 0-4, 0-0, 0. Totals 15-37, 18-21, 50.
Carson 9 6 21 11 – 47
S. Tahoe 18 10 11 11 – 50
Three-point goals: Carson, Houghton 2, Brush 2; South Tahoe, Freeman, Allister. Total fouls: Carson 17, South Tahoe 17. Fouled out: Freeman.
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