Vikings, Tigers get jump on playoff intensity
Emotional game faces, pumped fists and raucous crowd noise. Bloody noses, standing ovations, hard fouls and technicals. Late whistles, in-your-face defense, diving for loose balls and coaches barking instructions to players. Are you sure it’s not zone tournament time yet?
The South Tahoe and Douglas boys basketball teams literally knocked heads Tuesday night and, after 32 minutes of unexpected playoff-life intensity, it was South Tahoe that emerged with a 55-39 victory.
“They wanted the game pretty bad, but we wanted it, too,” said Viking guard John Giannoni III, who ended the evening with 10 points.
The Vikings slowed the game’s breakneck pace considerably in the fourth quarter, and the gamble worked quite effectively. Given ample time to set up the offense, patient passes set up a number of short layups and jumpers for the Vikings.
“We tried to be a lot more selective with our shots and tried to be more patient,” said Vikings coach Tom Orlich, whose Vikes upped their overall record to 17-5, 7-1 in the division. “Because of that, we ended up doing a very good job offensively in the fourth quarter.”
The home team also converted its free throws down the stretch, draining 13-of-16 foul shots for an 81-percent clip. Giannoni scored eight fourth-quarter points, including 4-of-4 free throws, and guard Josh David added five as the Vikes put together a decisive 25-14 run in the final stanza.
“Offensively, they spread us out in the fourth quarter, and we just didn’t have any match,” said Douglas coach Keith Lewis, whose squad had been creeping toward first place on the coattails of a four-game win streak entering Tuesday’s game. “I think we got flustered by a little bit of the officiating, but South Tahoe beat us.”
The Viking win set the stage for what should be the Division II boys game of the year: a winner-take-all shootout for the league title Feb. 2 at Wooster.
“No question about it. That will be the game,” Orlich said. “I mean, whoever wins it is going to win the title.
“We haven’t had a real good game in a long time. And if we don’t play well Tuesday night, it just won’t happen.”
The Tigers raced back into the third quarter, using three-pointers by Kyle Baker and John Dunbar to cut South Tahoe’s lead to five at 30-25 going into the final frame. Douglas outscored STHS 12-7 in the third quarter.
Neither team could be too pleased with its effort in the first quarter. South Tahoe mustered just four points, its lowest output in any quarter this season. A handful of turnovers and several misplaced three-point attempts planted a perplexed, frustrated grimace on Orlich’s face for most of the first half. Douglas did even worse, though, missing four free throws as nearly six minutes elapsed before their first points.
“They held the ball pretty well and we didn’t have as many possessions as you normally would in an ordinary game,” Orlich said. “And when we did get them, we were pretty impatient and I thought that was a big factor in the first quarter.”
The frenetic, playground-style play continued into the second quarter, as players from both teams hit the floor after a number of aggressive fouls. Tim Sprinkles and reserve Billy Doughty returned a bit of normalcy to the Viking attack in the second period, combining for 11 points. Viking guard Norman Cabanero put a fitting cap on the wild first half, draining a 22-foot trey with four seconds left in the quarter to give South Tahoe a 23-13 lead at the break.
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