North Tahoe basketball preview: Boys looking to gel by season’s end |

North Tahoe basketball preview: Boys looking to gel by season’s end

Seth Lightcap/Sierra SunSenior guard Chris Cahill is one of the key returning players on this year's North Tahoe basketball team. The Lakers start league play at home Friday night against Pershing County (Lovelock). Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

The new-look Lakers have shown flashes of skill and cohesiveness in the early season. With league play tipping off Friday night in the North Tahoe gym, it couldn’t hurt to string together some consecutive games and practices as a complete unit.

“It’s rare to get everybody in the gym at the same time. If we can do that I think we can gel to be a good team,” said North Tahoe head coach Mike Williams. “We just haven’t had that chance.

“My hope is that we can gel in time to make zones.”

The talent is there, as is the experience and toughness needed to make a postseason run. But with academic ineligibility issues, combined with players’ work schedules, injuries and holiday vacations of late, Williams said the challenge has been to get everyone flowing on the same page.

This past week the team took a step in the right direction, as the Lakers won back-to-back games at Greenville (Calif.) and Virginia City on Monday and Tuesday. They pulled off the feat with seven players total ” out of 11 listed on the roster.

“I think we’re just starting to mesh together, which is good,” said junior forward Mitchell Conn. “We hope to be one of the first (North Tahoe) teams in a while to make the playoffs.”

Conn was a missing part of the puzzle until Monday, when he made his first court appearance of the season. Also a quarterback on the North Tahoe football team, Conn suffered a teardrop fracture in his neck against Whittell on Oct. 11 and didn’t shed his neck brace until Dec. 8.

Williams is glad to have him back.

“Mitchell is as fanatical about basketball as anyone,” the coach said. “He’s going to be key to us doing well this year.”

Aside from Conn at 6 foot 3, the Lakers boast size in 6-foot-4-inch senior James Laughlin, who is playing his first year of varsity ball. So far his coach is impressed with what he’s seen.

“Jim is doing really well. He has a great attitude. And for how big he is, he’s surprisingly quick on his feet,” Williams said. “He’s shown decent touch around the hoop, and he provides great defense and rebounding. He also brings intensity, which rubs off on the other guys.”

While Williams said the Lakers need to improve on their shot selection and ball handling, the team’s defense and ability to hoard rebounds stands out as a strength.

“Our rebounding and defense gives us a chance to win games,” Williams said. “We have more size than we’ve had in the past three or four years.”

Leadership at the guard positions helps, and the Lakers have just that in seniors Chris Cahill, Oscar Appel Zazueta and Armando Paniagua, who dropped 22 points against Virginia City on Tuesday.

Conn said the team has yet to show its full potential. Until then, there’s no pinning down a particular team strength.

“I’m not exactly sure yet, because we haven’t really gotten in a flow where everything falls into place,” Conn said. “But we’re getting it together.”

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