‘They’re going to remember this forever’: North Tahoe’s run ends at state basketball semifinals
Two seasons ago when North Tahoe coach Devin Ginty took over the Lakers boys’ basketball program, he said he wanted to change the culture around the team.
North Tahoe had been mired in a stretch of losing seasons that dated back more than a decade and the program hadn’t reached a state tournament since 1998.
Changing the culture around basketball at the school would be an uphill battle, but a group of players around Ginty quickly bought in to the coach’s philosophy of emphasizing fundamentals and hard work.
Countless hours spent in the gym and a season later, that group stepped foot on the floor at Eldorado High School in Las Vegas to take on The Meadows in the semifinals of the Class 2A state tournament, marking the first state playoff appearance for the program in more than two decades.
“I’m just really proud of the guys that they got to experience this. It’s really a credit to all of their hard work,” said Ginty.
“It was pretty funny on the ride over being able to hear some of the seniors’ stories from their sophomore year when a lot of those guys first stepped foot on a basketball court.
“They’ve come a long way from going winless their sophomore year on (junior varsity) to being able to make state. It’s a huge accomplishment for them and a great sign for our program of what hard work can do. A lot of credit has to go out to coach Monte White and coach Paul Joslin for getting those guys involved and really getting them started and teaching them the value of commitment to the program. I’m just happy both those coaches and all these players got to experience this their senior years.”
Though North Tahoe’s run ended in a 50-35 loss to The Meadows in last Friday’s semifinals, the team accomplished a huge feat in turning around a program that previously had one season of 10 wins or more since 2007.
“I thought it was a good matchup for us, and unfortunately we didn’t come out with our strongest start,” said Ginty on the state semifinals matchup. “The Meadows took advantage of that, and we also got into foul trouble pretty quick, which didn’t help. The refs were calling some pretty ticky-tack fouls, which you’re hoping they kind of let them play a little more once you get to the state level … credit The Meadows, they were really steady and consistent from start to finish.”
Juniors John Zapata and Lucas Valois led the Lakers with 10 points apiece. Junior Cameron McAndrews tallied five points, and sophomore Ben Trujillo scored four points.
North Tahoe finished the season with an overall record of 15-14. The Lakers won the program’s first playoff game in more than a decade, defeating Silver Stage, 56-50, in the quarterfinals of the Class 2A Northern League tournament. North Tahoe then earned a berth into the state tournament by shocking No. 1 seed West Wendover in the league semifinals on a game-winning 3-pointer in overtime by McAndrews.
McAndrews led North Tahoe during the regular season, averaging a team-high 11.0 points per game. McAndrews also knocked in 45 3-pointers on 42 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
The team’s center, Zapata, led the Lakers in rebounds with 7.4 boards per game while averaging 8.9 points per game. Zapata also posted a team-high 1.5 blocks per contest and was named second-team all league. Senior Liam Bickett-Walsh averaged 8.0 points per game, and led the team with 2.3 assists per game. Junior Lucas Valois averaged 8.6 points per game during the regular season and was named second-team all league.
Ricardo Martinez was the team’s defensive stopper this season, often taking on the opponent’s top scorers. Martinez averaged a team-high 1.7 steals per game and was named to the league’s honorable mention list.
“I think this (season) is one we’re going to look back on and really be proud of,” said Ginty. “It’s a great bar that was set for our program and future players to come. They’re going to remember this forever as the beginning of something special … I just hope the groups that come after know how hard it is to get there and how much work they have to put in as a team. It definitely isn’t easy.”
North Tahoe’s seniors this season include: Bickett-Walsh, Martinez, Irvin Soto, Lalo Munoz, Marcus Steele, Warren Fekeith, Axel Medina, Corey Joslin, and Martin Gallaga.