Vikings rise to high expectations |

Vikings rise to high expectations

A 22-8 record against top-notch competition doesn’t leave much room for bouncing back, so when South Tahoe High’s basketball players say they’re looking to rebound, they mean it literally.

The Vikings, who return four starters and seven letter-winners from last season’s state-quarterfinal squad, will have trouble hiding the raw materials they have at their disposal. But head coach Tom Orlich, starting his 25th year at the Vikings helm, indicated this year’s Vikings still need polish.

“There’s a lot of different areas we need to work on,” Orlich said.

Rebounding is one of the areas South Tahoe still is working on, along with defensive intensity and execution. If the Vikings start executing to their customarily high levels, though, they have the possibility of making things happen.

“I’m excited about every year, but it’s not as hard when you have this many people returning,” Orlich said.

South Tahoe lost just one starter, 6-4 point guard Josh David, but has a solid backcourt with senior guards Matt Williams and John Giannoni starting, and juniors Andy Mora, Matt Connelly and Ervin Joaquin providing backup. South Tahoe isn’t executing its precise, new motion offense perfectly yet, but the number of veterans gives the team a solid base to build on.

“We know each other, how everybody plays, it’s just a matter of getting the timing down,” Giannoni said.

Tim Sprinkles and Travis McCollum, both seniors, bring side, speed and athleticism to the forward line. Sprinkles, 6-2 played out of position at power forward last season, but returns to his natural position where South Tahoe can use his speed.

McCollum, 6-4, missed essentially all of 1998-99 with a ligament injury after starting as a sophomore, but provided support for the team from the sidelines. South Tahoe also has depth behind the two starting forwards, with seniors Andy Butcher, James Clemmer and 6-3 junior Chris Ortiz on the bench.

The forwards flank 6-7 center Bob Larmore, a senior. Larmore progressed for South Tahoe in off-season tournaments, but leg problems have slowed the tallest Viking in the past. In fact, he’s one of three starters – with Sprinkles and McCollum – who will wear a knee brace on the court. Larmore’s backup is 6-4 junior Erick Capellino.

Despite all the height, rebounding is a focus.

“We might struggle rebounding-wise, because we’re not rebounding well yet,” Orlich said.

McCollum agreed:

“When the other team gets the shots off, we have to get the rebounds,” he said. “We can’t allow second shots.”

The other aspect the players are working on is the new offense. Sprinkles described it as more precise, where players have to move to specific places instead of general areas. It depends heavily on setting good screens.

“For the offense to work, we’ve got to set good screens,” Williams said.

For all the excitement the deep, talented, veteran Vikings generate, they know their road isn’t going to be easy. In fact, the tough part of the schedule starts at 7 p.m. Nov. 30 in South Lake Tahoe, with the opener against McQueen. The Lancers finished 15-14 last season, but South Tahoe’s players hold the Lancers and guards Karl Aaker and Chris Carr in high regard, as does Orlich.

“McQueen is probably one of the most talented teams in the conference,” Orlich said.

The players seem to hope it’s a test – but nothing more.

“Hopefully, it’s not a wake-up call,” Giannoni said.

From there, the Vikings go on to the Dec. 2-4 Viking Rotary Classic at South Tahoe High. With good performances there and at home against Reed on Dec. 7, the Vikings could put Orlich in position for his 500th win during the quality Gridley (Calif.) High School tournament near Sacramento Dec. 9-11.

“We just want to take everything one game at a time,” Giannoni said.

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