The South Tahoe girls basketball team ended its 2014-15 season last Saturday by delivering one of its top performances of the entire campaign. The Vikings knocked off playoff-bound Fallon, 49-41, in a Northern Division I-A game at STHS Blue Gym to end an up-and-down season on a winning note.
“We showed that we can play with anybody in the league — it was a great way to go out,” Vikings head coach Mike Neiger said.
South Tahoe (8-8 league, 11-14 overall) had a slim shot at making the playoffs when the last week of the regular season began, but was eliminated when Spring Creek won last Thursday to secure the fourth and final playoff spot. Despite not having anything to play for, the Vikings produced a stellar performance against the Greenwave.
“We had nothing to lose — our T-shirts say ‘For Each Other,’ and I told them for all days to play for the girls sitting next to you, today is the day,” Neiger said. “They bought into that and went for it.”
After a back-and-forth opening quarter, South Tahoe had a 9-7 lead — the Vikings broke a late tie with a buzzer-beating layup from forward Annie Buchser. STHS stretched the advantage to 12 points at halftime following one of its most complete quarters of the season.
The Vikings scored the first four points of the second quarter, and had a 16-11 lead over Fallon (15-9, 12-4) when they broke the game open. South Tahoe closed the half on a 9-2 run in the last 5:45 — including three baskets in a 39-second span — to take a 25-13 lead into the break.
South Tahoe led 31-15 after guard Ally King hit a jumper with 4:40 left in the third quarter — but Fallon found its rhythm to tighten things up. The Greenwave scored 12 straight points to pull within four, and the Vikings clung to a 33-28 lead headed into the final frame.
In the fourth quarter, the Greenwave pulled within a point on two separate occasions — and South Tahoe had an answer each time. With 1:17 left, Fallon forward Megan McCormick hit a shot that made it 42-41 — but from there the Vikings closed out the contest by forcing turnovers on the Greenwave’s next three possessions and shooting 7-for-9 from the free-throw line in the last minute.
King had a game-high 18 points for South Tahoe in the victory to go along with five steals. She finished her senior season as the Vikings’ leading scorer with an average of 13.3 points per game — one of four statistical categories she led the team in.
“She has meant a lot to us this season,” Neiger said. “She took over one of the huddles at the end and fired them up to finish the game — I just let her roll with that.”
Guard Drue Chapman added 13 points against Fallon, and forward Valeria Garcia was one of four Vikings to finish with four points. Garcia’s total included five assists and a team-high four rebounds.
“In the first game we couldn’t get off a good look and nothing dropped,” Neiger said. “Today they worked better, moved better, got open looks and shot like they can shoot.”
For the Vikings, the win avenged a 33-22 loss at Fallon to end the first round of league play. In addition to a stronger offensive performance, South Tahoe kept the Greenwave out of rhythm with a 1-3-1 defense directed from the back by forward Andi Embry.
“We went with the 1-3-1 (full-court) trap into the 1-3-1 to try to clog up the middle, and they did it all 32 minutes,” Neiger said. “They were committed to being active with hands in the passing lane and they did it.”
Guard Ali Tedford led Fallon with 12 points in the loss and McCormick added 12. The Greenwave will be the third seed in the regional tournament, and open up the postseason against second-seeded Elko on Friday in Fallon.
With the win, South Tahoe finished .500 in league play while taking sixth place — it marks the team’s second year in a row that will end without a postseason appearance. The Vikings closed with three wins in the last four games, playing with consistency down the stretch.
“It’s similar to last year — we split with two of the four playoff teams, but had a couple of hiccups along the way,’ Neiger said. “My message to the returners is to treat every game like a playoff game.
“It has been a fun season and it’s going to be hard to let go of this group. I appreciate what we did this year — I’m going to remember it forever.”