Shorthanded Warriors drop league opener
ZEPHYR COVE – The Portland Trail Blazers and the Whittell High Warriors’ girls’ basketball team share a lot in common this season.
Both teams are besieged by injuries but aren’t using sidelined players as excuses.
Because of injuries to three regulars, the Warriors started two freshmen and had only two available reserves against Silver Stage in their Northern 2A League opener on Tuesday night and nearly gutted out the victory. But behind Mariah Gramolini’s nine fourth-quarter points, the Nighthawks emerged a road winner, 49-38.
“We knew we could win, but we knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” said Gramolini, who finished with a career-high 26 points. “We knew we could do it if we played hard.”
Whittell lost senior Lauren Andrew and sophomore Megan Mize to season-ending injuries during the volleyball season, and sophomore starting guard Nina Jimenez was confined to the bench on Tuesday with an ankle injury. Junior guard Lea Torres-Manzano recently rejoined the Warriors after recovering from a sprained ankle.
“Getting healthy is going to be the main thing. It’s not going to be an easy road, but we’re trying to readapt,” said Whittell coach Tom Esposito. “I still think we can make a run, but first the injuries have to be healed and then the Harris sisters are going to be a (work in) progress.”
The Harris sisters, Emily and Amanda, are receiving substantial playing time as freshmen.
Whittell, however, didn’t let Silver Stage get any breathing room until the closing minutes. Senior Isabel Concha-Foley kept the Warriors close, scoring 26 points and pulling down 18 rebounds. Senior point guard Gabriella Tracy and Emily Harris kept Concha-Foley busy in the post by repeatedly feeding her passes on the blocks.
The last of Concha-Foley’s points at the foul line pulled Whittell within 38-36 with just over four minutes to go, but then Gramolini took over, burying a shot just inside the three-point line and then one behind it for a 43-36 lead with 3:00 remaining.
Harris hit a baseline shot to bring Whittell within five points, and the Warriors’ full-court pressure produced several turnovers, but they couldn’t capitalize.
“We had 15 turnovers in the second half, and I think that’s from fatigue … from having a short bench and not enough wind, because we were right there until the end,” said Esposito, whose team committed seven turnovers in a first half that ended with Whittell in front 21-20.
Gramolini sealed the Nighthawks’ victory by making her final perimeter shot and two free throws.
“I usually make half that many outside shots. Today was good,” she said.
Tracy finished with six points for the Warriors, and Harris scored four.
Whittell will play host to 15-1 Lovelock on Saturday.
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