Vikings shake off slow start, romp past Dust Devils
It was a long winter break for South Tahoe boys. The Vikings had 16 days off between hardwood clashes. A scheduled game late in December turned into a forfeit win and contributed to the time off.
So maybe it wasn’t surprising that just over two minutes into Tuesday night’s game against the Dayton Dust Devils, Vikings head coach David Finnegan called a timeout with his team trailing 4-1.
“I never do that, well, not often. I tried to change the energy,” Finnegan said. “The kids weren’t doing what they were supposed to do. I was not happy. Then they started responding but it still took them awhile to get going.”
The Vikings got better after the timeout and continued to improve throughout the night. They pleased the large home crowd with driving dunks, jump shots and swarming defensive pressure.
South Tahoe grabbed the lead late in the first quarter and continued to pull away in every quarter. When the dust settled, the Vikings claimed a 78-45 Northern League victory.
“We had a holiday break, New Year’s weekend, so everybody came out slow,” said Vikings star senior McCallan Castles who scored a game-high 22 points, including three monstrous, two-handed dunks. “We didn’t have a whole lot of sleep, but coach Finnegan got on us and we really picked it up in the second and third quarters. We gave a lot more energy on defense, started pressing better and creating turnovers, which is how we should play, we’re a fast-paced team.”
South Tahoe finished the first half with a 34-22 lead, but the Vikings clearly weren’t playing their best and lacked their normal intensity.
But they shrugged off the first half, the Christmas turkey and the New Year’s celebration and came through with a dominant second half.
The Vikings pretty much scored at will in the third quarter, tallying 24 points, but they also gave up 18 in an up-and-down-the-court eight minutes. They owned a 58-40 advantage. The key for South Tahoe was its defensive press.
“Our press is our best weapon and as soon as we put them under pressure they didn’t know what to do,” said Vikings senior co-captain Peyton Galli, who scored nine points. “And points started coming. Defense turns to offense. We just had to wake up. We just had to figure out we’re a good team and I think all the guys know that. We were better than them and things started coming together.”
The only negative about the second half was the Vikings lost Kevin Lehmann to an injury early in the third quarter. He left the game with, at the time, a team-high 14 points.
Finnegan wasn’t happy with how his team was playing until the fourth quarter. The first-year coach issued his players a challenge to start the period.
“Dayton had 40 points and I thought that was too much, so I challenged them to see if we could get their points down to 6 or 7 for the last quarter,” Finnegan said. “The kids responded.”
Boy did they.
Dayton converted a free throw early but didn’t score again for over five minutes.
The Vikings went on an 18-0 run led by a red-hot Castles to put the game away. The 6-foot-5 senior caught fire with a pair of 3-pointers and scored 10 points in four minutes before being taken out with South Tahoe leading 72-41.
“I didn’t want to take him out because he was on fire, but we were up by 30 so I had to take him out,” Finnegan said. “But in the fourth quarter they played how I knew they could play. They fed off the turnovers and the steals they were getting, and it just got them more excited. I was proud of them.”
All 12 players on the Vikings roster scored points including sophomore Cameron Lehmann, who had three points in his first action.
“I was a little nervous,” Lehmann said, who enjoys watching what Castles can do on the court. “He’s so huge, all you have to do is pass to him.”
Also for the Vikings, Matt Cain scored six points, Bryan Schouten added five, Ruzzell Valiente, Caleb Moretti and Carl Valiente each scored four points and Dylan Chartraw had three.
South Tahoe (6-4, 4-1 Northern League) has claimed three straight victories and has won five of six overall. The Vikings trail only Elko (5-0) in league play and are one-half game ahead of the Churchill Greenwave (9-3, 3-1 Northern).
The Vikings next will host the Fernley Vaqueros (7-7, 2-2) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at South Tahoe.