North Tahoe girls’ basketball preview | Lakers set goal of returning to postseason |

North Tahoe girls’ basketball preview | Lakers set goal of returning to postseason

Sylas Wright
Sierra Sun
Sylas Wright / Sierra SunNorth Tahoe senior Iren Rojas and the Lakers may be undersized, but they are an athletic and scrappy bunch that's determined to return to the playoffs.

TAHOE CITY and#8212; In his first season at the helm, Laker girls’ basketball coach Rick Buhler made one thing perfectly clear to his players from the start.

and#8220;Our goal is to go to the playoffs. At the first team meeting I told the girls that’s what we’re here for,and#8221; said Buhler, whose team is off to a 2-1 start so far. and#8220;And they’ve definitely bought into that. We don’t go into any game not expecting to win.

and#8220;I think by the time we get through (Christmas) break and roll into league in January, we’ll be ready.and#8221;

The North Tahoe squad is far from large in any regard, with a total of just 10 players and little height across the board. But that’s all right, Buhler said, because the Lakers make up for their lack of size with speed and determination.

and#8220;We tend to run quite a bit, and with our size that’s the thing we have to do,and#8221; he said. and#8220;We have to move, and not get tired.and#8221;

With the Lakers’ speed and grit, the team is naturally playing its best basketball on the defensive end in the early going. In fact, in the season-opening Truckee Invitational Tip-off Tournament, North Tahoe held its three opponents to an average of 26.6 points. Now it’s time to pick up the intensity on the offensive end, said Buhler, whose team averaged only 25.3 points in the same three games.

and#8220;Our defense is a little ahead of our offense, but the offense gets better every day,and#8221; Buhler said. and#8220;They’re getting more comfortable with where they’re supposed to be all the time.and#8221;

The coach was particularly frustrated with the Lakers’ inability to knock down an open shot during the tournament, when he said they had countless looks from point-blank range that they failed to convert.

and#8220;We’re working the ball around well. We just need to put it in the basket,and#8221; Buhler said.

Once they get senior captain Beverly Olivares back from vacation, the starting lineup will be made up of Olivares, who earned all-tournament honors in the Truckee Invitational, junior center Samantha Jeffers, senior guard Iren Rojas, senior forward/guard Heidi Jimenez and sophomore guard Elizabeth Buhler. Mago Olivares typically is the first player to come off the bench.

and#8220;I have a lot of really well-rounded athletes who are learning to be basketball players,and#8221; coach Buhler said, adding that the Lakers are not timid when it comes to playing physically. and#8220;They’re not afraid of anybody, and I like that. We don’t promote (contact), but we’re going to get in there and fight for every loose ball.

and#8220;You don’t win basketball games by letting people take the ball away from you. And they’re tough. They’ll hit the floor and get back up.and#8221;

The coach also is encouraged about the team’s future, as North Tahoe boasts a fine feeder program at the middle school level, and a number of strong players in the eighth and ninth grades.

and#8220;The program is definitely building in the right direction,and#8221; Buhler said.

As was the case with volleyball, the new Mount Rose League pits the Lakers against all the Tahoe-area schools, plus Sparks, in a 2A-3A blended league in an effort to reduce travel costs. But while North Tahoe will have to square off against the larger 3A schools and#8212; South Tahoe, Truckee and Sparks and#8212; where they finish in that mix will not determine if they qualify for playoffs. Instead, teams build points based on their success against all levels of competition, and are then seeded for their respective regional tournaments based on their points totals.

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