South Tahoe baseball starts strong, eyes another run at state title

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — With 10 returning seniors, South Tahoe baseball is eyeing another strong run at a state title.

The Vikings suffered a difficult 7-6 loss to rival Truckee last year in the 3A northern regional semifinal after leading 6-4 after three innings.

A win would have put South Tahoe in the regional title game that also comes with a berth to the state tournament.

Despite practicing mostly indoors with feet of snow all around Lake Tahoe, the Vikings have started the 2019 campaign strong in their efforts to eclipse what they did a season ago.

South Tahoe has won three of four, including two out of three this past weekend to open play in the Northern League.

The Vikings opened their season, March 2, with an 11-8 road win at McQueen in Reno and took two of three from Lowry on Friday and Saturday.

Senior Auston Burdick received the starting job for the league opener on Friday and tossed the first 4 1/3 innings and allowed four earned runs while striking out seven.

Junior Travis Lee was "very effective" in relief according to Vikings head coach Starbuck Teevan, and saved Burdick's victory with 2 2/3 scoreless innings with four strikeouts.

Vikings senior Cameron Johnson carried the big stick by scoring four times and driving in three with two hits and three walks.

Junior Jaden Aquino added two hits and a run batted in and Cameron Lehmann scored twice, stole three bases, drove in a run and singled.

South Tahoe suffered a 2-1 loss Saturday in the first game of a doubleheader.

Johnson was the tough-luck starter on the mound. The righty allowed just one run in five innings while striking out five but the Vikings bats were silent.

Aquino came on in relief and surrendered the second run, unearned.

"Cameron threw a great game for us, but didn't get any run support," Teevan said. "A couple late errors in the field cost us, along with a late base-running mistake and our bats were flat. We played well, but came up a bit short with some mental mistakes."

Freshman Andrew Lehmann had two hits to lead the offense, Aquino added a single and sophomore Eric Vassar tripled and drove in the Vikings' run.

Kevin Lehmann's arm and bat helped the Vikings win the rubber match 11-7 in the afternoon.

The senior allowed jut two earned runs while also blasting a two-run home run and a triple to lead the offensive charge.

Aquino earned the save.

Vasser had two hits, two runs scored, two RBI's and four stolen bases

Andrew Lehmann, Johnson, Cameron Lehmann and Aquino each had a hit. Cameron Lehmann and Andrew Lehmann each had RBI's and senior Aaron Johnson walked four times and stole three bases.

South Tahoe (3-1, 2-1 Northern) next will play North Valleys Friday and Saturday in Reno.

The first pitch Friday is at 2 p.m. and the first game of the doubleheader Saturday is at 10 a.m.

The Vikings first home series is scheduled for March 29-30 against Spring Creek at South Tahoe Middle School, weather and field conditions permitting.

Student Athlete of the Month: Whittell’s Zack Johns one of best ball defenders

Zack Johns defends like his life depends on it.

The Whittell junior is fast and harasses opposing ball handlers to no end.

He has quick feet and leads the Warriors squeaky shoe symphony when they are using their full court press.

He's here, over there, runs over to the other side of the court and then, if the opponents get the ball into the offensive zone, he hounds guards on the perimeter.

"He is one of the best off ball defenders I have ever had," said Whittell head coach Phil Bryant.

That's coming from someone who has been coaching basketball players for over 40 years.

"He is extremely quick, was our leader in steals and lead the league in steals as well," Bryant said.

For his effort, Johns is the Tribune's January Student-Athlete of the Month.

Johns was a big part of the Whittell full-court press. His defensive effort helped kickstart the offense, of which he was the third leading scorer.

Johns' quick feet and defensive excellence came from years of training as a child.

"I danced for about six years and stopped at age 10 or 11," Johns said. "That helped me learn commitment."

That's about the age he started playing basketball in recreation leagues at Kahle Community Center. He grew up to love the sport.

Johns helped the Warriors claim the No. 2 spot out of the 1A West League and contributed to a January where the Warriors lost just one game.

He averaged 12.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.8 steals per game.

Whittell won its first-round playoff game before being knocked in the semifinals.

"This season, I was really happy although our team chemistry was a little limited," Johns said. "I'm excited for next year and we'll see where that goes."

Bryant expects Johns to be a team captain and leader in his senior season.

Johns would like to play hoops in college, but fears his size will limit his chances, but that's not going to stop him from trying.

When he does choose a college, he plans to follow in his father's footsteps and study electrical engineering.

His father has taught him how to cook and he's also taken four years of culinary training.

"Whenever friends come over they're like, 'you guys are the best cooks,'" Johns said. "We don't cook to eat, we cook/eat to be happy."

He also attends school with his older sister, Brianna, who was a Tribune nominee for female student-athlete of the month.

The family discussion over the past few months has mostly been about basketball.

"Almost every night at the dinner table the conversation would be dominated by basketball, especially after game nights," Johns said.

Johns, who was born at Barton Memorial Hospital, also has many other interests, like playing golf, cooking and boating and jet skiing.

He also enjoys skiing but hasn't bought a pass in the last couple of years.

He first picked up a golf club at age 4 and will play on the Warriors team this spring — weather and snow permitting.

The golf season is likely going to be played out of the basin due to feet of snow sitting on all the Tahoe courses.

Johns said this year is the biggest snow season he's ever seen.

"The snow, it's ridiculous," Johns said. "It needs to go away so I can start golfing."

Whittell boys fall in regional semis

Whittell got through the first round of playoffs, but fell one win shy of qualifying for the state tournament.

The Warriors, No. 2 from the West, knocked off the East's No. 3 seed, Eureka, 59-48 on Thursday, Feb. 21, at Hug High School in Reno but were defeated 53-34 the next day by Jackpot, the No. 1 seed from the East, at Wooster High School in Reno in the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association Class 1A Basketball Championships.

The Warriors knocked Eureka out of the playoffs in the first round for the fourth straight season, but had to rally to continue the streak.

A slow start to the game led to a two-point deficit at halftime.

A 21-8 third-quarter run turned the tide and Whittell held on for the win despite missing 14 of 16 free throws in the fourth quarter.

Trent Dingman finished with 17 points to lead the way while Isaiah Womack had 15 and Dylan Wade added 14.

"It was a game where we had just enough to get the job done," said Warriors head coach Phil Bryant. "We had played Eureka in the first round each of the last four years and it was a tough game for us."

Against Jackpot, Bryant's words from the past came back to haunt the Warriors.

Last year, after the Warriors knocked Jackpot out in the semifinals, Bryant went into the Jaguars locker room after the game and praised their poise, sportsmanship and team play.

"I told them that the next year would be their time," Bryant said. "Little did I know it would be against us."

Whittell couldn't knock down shots in the first quarter and fell behind 15-3, and the chase was on until the finish.

"We spent the rest of the game trying to make up that difference," Bryant said. "They had a great game plan and started in a box-and-1 on Dylan. We still had shots but couldn't get anything to fall in the first quarter. At the half they changed to a triangle-and-2 on Dylan and Trent and the other three starters combined for only 12 points in the second half. It was a good coaching move on their part. I know it was a tough loss for the seniors but Isaiah said it well in the locker room, 'Look at the whole season and not just one game and we had a great year at 19-3.' "

Whittell (19-3, 8-2 West) will lose just four, but impactful, seniors, Womack, Dingman, Sterling Manchester and Brandon Rojas from the 15-man roster.

Wade, Zack Johns and Malachi Womack, the first, third and fifth leading scorers this year, will anchor the starting lineup and there will be a big competition for big minutes.

"It is now up to the young guys to keep up the run," Bryant said. "We have been to the playoffs in each of my seven years here (including two state championships) and we plan to be there again next year. I know we have a group who will put in the time to get better."

Lady Warriors championship season ends in 1A regional quarterfinals

The basketball season ended Thursday for Whittell's Lady Warriors, but not before they put the program back on the map.

After over 10 years of futility, Whittell ascended to be co-West League champions and reach the playoffs.

Whittell's head coach Phil Bryant would have liked his girls to get a little farther in postseason but in all felt like it was a real good season.

The Warriors, No. 2 in the west, lost 51-31 to Owyhee, the East's No. 3 seed, in the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association Class 1A Championships at Hug High School in Reno.

"We just seemed to be content to have made the playoffs and didn't bring much energy to the game," Bryant said. "We got down early and just were not able to create any early scoring opportunities with the press. Owyhee's playoff experience showed up as they played loose and relaxed. In all, it was a good season but I am a little disappointed I was not able to get them to the level of play I had hoped to. In terms of the number of wins it was great success, but in the level of intensity and competitiveness we didn't quite get there."

Whittell, like it had so often in the regular season, couldn't consistently hit shots from any range.

The Warriors hit just 14 of 66 attempts and were 1 of 15 from beyond the arc.

Senior Madison Burch led the way with nine points but the other four starters combined for just 10 points.

Whittell finished 16-7 overall and 9-1 in league play. Four seniors, Burch, Anna White, Shaylie Rippet and Briana Johns will graduate this year, but the rest of the team was made up of one junior, four sophomores and two freshman — the future appears to be bright.

"It is a step in the right direction and with the number of girls who could come back next year it can continue to be positive steps," Bryant said. "They are going to have to be willing to put in some offseason work to improve their skill sets and I'm not sure they are willing to do that with the number of them that are committed to club soccer or just not interested enough to do what it takes. Basketball players are made in the offseason and teams are made during the season."

Lady Warriors championship season ends in 1A regional quarterfinals

The basketball season ended Thursday for Whittell's Lady Warriors, but not before they put the program back on the map.

After over 10 years of futility, Whittell ascended to be co-West League champions and reach the playoffs.

Whittell's head coach Phil Bryant would have liked his girls to get a little farther in postseason but in all felt like it was a real good season.

The Warriors, No. 2 in the west, lost 51-31 to Owyhee, the East's No. 3 seed, in the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association Class 1A Championships at Hug High School in Reno.

"We just seemed to be content to have made the playoffs and didn't bring much energy to the game," Bryant said. "We got down early and just were not able to create any early scoring opportunities with the press. Owyhee's playoff experience showed up as they played loose and relaxed. In all, it was a good season but I am a little disappointed I was not able to get them to the level of play I had hoped to. In terms of the number of wins it was great success, but in the level of intensity and competitiveness we didn't quite get there."

Whittell, like it had so often in the regular season, couldn't consistently hit shots from any range.

The Warriors hit just 14 of 66 attempts and were 1 of 15 from beyond the arc.

Senior Madison Burch led the way with nine points but the other four starters combined for just 10 points.

Whittell finished 16-7 overall and 9-1 in league play. Four seniors, Burch, Anna White, Shaylie Rippet and Briana Johns will graduate this year, but the rest of the team was made up of one junior, four sophomores and two freshman — the future appears to be bright.

"It is a step in the right direction and with the number of girls who could come back next year it can continue to be positive steps," Bryant said. "They are going to have to be willing to put in some offseason work to improve their skill sets and I'm not sure they are willing to do that with the number of them that are committed to club soccer or just not interested enough to do what it takes. Basketball players are made in the offseason and teams are made during the season."