Tough task ahead for Whittell Warriors |

Tough task ahead for Whittell Warriors

Chad Sellmer, Tribune staff writer

It’s David versus Goliath, prep basketball style, and the Warriors are searching for some stones.

The Whittell High School girls’ basketball team faces off against division champion Hawthorne on Thursday night at Dayton High School in the first round of the Northern Nevada 2A league playoffs. Tipoff is at 6:10 p.m.

Hawthorne features two of Nevada’s top prep players in Delicia Jernigan and Sidney Orndorff. Both senior girls are being looked at by several Division 1 college basketball programs and have been tearing up other teams all season long. Orndorff is averaging 21.7 points per game, while Jernigan adds an average of 18.5 per game. The Serpents also has two top rebounders in the league in Orndorff, who averages 10.2 boards per game, and senior Jami Harris with 11.4 rebounds per game.

“Basically, we’ve been pretty balanced,” said Hawthorne head coach Dave Gelmstedt. “Jernigan and Orndorff take a majority of the scoring, but we’ve gotten some good inside play from Harris, who came in as a transfer (this year) from Montana. Her cousin plays for us and she wanted to win a state championship.”

Whittell’s record against the Serpents isn’t pretty. In the first game Jan. 24 at Whittell, the Warriors were beaten by 72 points, 90-18. In the rematch last week, the Whittell girls played better and the loss was cut to 50 points, 70-20.

Warriors’ head coach Lindsay Wines noted that Thursday’s playoff matchup is sure to be a “David versus Goliath-type of thing.”

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“The girls are not as defeated as they maybe felt last week,” Wines said. “They know we need to go into the game and take care of the ball and even against weaker teams we’ve had a problem with that. Hawthorne’s offense is created by their defensive pressure, so we need to give them less opportunities to score.”

Hawthorne’s Jernigan and Orndorff are beginning their quest for a record fourth straight 2A state title, which they started as freshmen. Gelmstedt noted the duo have gone four years without losing to a league opponent, boasting an incredible 70-0 record, which “has never been done at any level.”

“Those two are really focused and the addition of Harris inside has helped,” he said. “Our bench has given us steady play over the last three weeks. They have been able to go in and expand the lead.”

Whittell has never won a state title in basketball and has not been to the zone playoffs “in at least five years,” Wines said.

“When I used to play for Whittell we made it to zone every year, but that was a long time ago,” she said. “(This) is a step in the right direction, that’s for sure. The thought of zone is exciting to them and I was pretty pleased with the attitude of the girls in practice (this week). Hopefully for the younger girls they’ll stick it out, because with the talent we have coming up, I’m confident they are capable of making things change.”

Whittell finished the regular season with a 3-9 conference record and 5-18 overall, while Hawthorne won the conference with a perfect 12-0 record and 26-2 overall mark. The Serpents only losses this season came against 4A schools McQueen of Reno and Gorman of Las Vegas, and the team carried only nine players throughout much of the year.

“We recently brought up two junior varsity players due to injuries, so there are 11 on the team now,” Gelmstedt said. “Last year, we played with only eight and won the state tournament.”

Gelmstedt said his is the only “senior-heavy” team in the conference right now, with five.

“It will be a major blow without Orndorff and Jernigan, but I still think we’ll be competitive,” he said.