South Tahoe’s winningest freshman boys team in at least 20 years wanted to end its season with one last win, playing at home against Fallon in a long-awaited rematch Saturday.
The Vikings got their win, but not without a scare. Fallon cut down the Vikings’ 10-point, second-quarter lead and took a small lead of its own. The suddenly-close contest brought to mind the Vikings’ earlier loss at Fallon.
In that match up, Fallon erased a double-digit South Tahoe lead and hit an unlikely 3-pointer for the win as time ran out. The early loss was one of just three for South Tahoe this season.
Speaking to his players during a timeout in Saturday’s game, South Tahoe coach Rick Chandler told them there was nothing he could say or do to get them back in the game.
“It’s up to you guys now. It’s your season,” he said.
Caught on their heels during Fallon’s rally, the Vikings pulled together and quickly turned things around. There would be no loss to Fallon this time around.
A 3-pointer by Noah Jackson put South Tahoe up 27-25 at halftime. Jackson finished with a game-high 27 points, including four more 3-pointers in the second half that helped the Vikings outpace the Greenwave.
Garret Harley scored 17 points for South Tahoe and Zen Contestable scored nine. In all, seven Vikings contributed baskets in the 66-53 win.
South Tahoe finished its season 19-3 overall, 13-3 in league. Those are the school’s best freshman records in at least 20 years, according to school stats.
“It’s a good ending, to get (Fallon) back after the buzzer-beater at their house,” player Tyler Ritter said after the game.
Chandler said the win over rival Fallon shows just how far the young team has come this season.
In the locker room, players lamented the end of their successful season, celebrated some newfound friendships and their growth as a team and looked forward to their promising future on the hardwood.
“We started the year with everyone being selfish and ended the year with no one being selfish,” player Dylan Gooding said.
Many of the team’s players have played together since third grade. One early challenge was getting them to put aside their personal rivalries and competitive jealousies and to play as a team. It didn’t take long, Chandler said.
One day before practice, Chandler showed up early and read his players the band of brothers speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V. “For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother,” was one line that stuck out.
“That was our theme all year,” Chandler said. “I think they showed it all year and they showed it most of all tonight. The other team came back and got a lead on us. We didn’t quit, we didn’t go back into our old bad habits. We stayed with the program, we passed the basketball and we shared it. Everyone on the bench was involved. They fixed it. They did it.”
The team wasn’t successful this year because it was the biggest or strongest. It was successful because it played together with lots of heart, Chandler said.
“We’re always the smallest team. They don’t care. They just go out and battle,” Chandler said.
“They’re all together in this. They’re all brothers. Regardless of the record, that’s the thing I’m most impressed with. If they grow up together, I don’t see how anyone’s going to stop them.”