Warriors need quick turnaround from OT loss
ZEPHYR COVE – Whittell High School was so close to its first home win of the boys’ basketball season that the Warriors sensed it.
Portola, however, did let it happen, rallying from seven points down late in regulation before squeezing out a 68-67 overtime victory.
Dillon Soares made the second of two free throws with 2 seconds remaining to give the Tigers the nonleague victory – their second overtime win against a Lake Tahoe school in the past week. Portola pulled off a similar win over North Tahoe last week.
The heartbreaking outcome and extra time on the court weren’t what the Warriors envisioned going into Wednesday’s key Northern 2A League game at North Tahoe. The Warriors can clinch a regional tournament berth with a win, but a loss will put the postseason spot up for grabs between the same two schools on Friday night in Zephyr Cove.
“Just winning the game is their biggest thing because their confidence has been down. Having to build that without many victories is one of the hardest parts,” said Whittell coach Tyler Rose. “Hopefully they take some positives from this game, but they see the losing aspect and, ‘Oh great, another loss in our books.’
“Coming into a game like tomorrow, it’s gonna be tough.”
The Warriors were seemingly in control when Michael Koskin drove the baseline for a bucket and Cody Nelson made a free throw for a 57-52 Whittell lead with 1:28 to go. Seconds later, the Warrior widened the lead to seven on a putback by John Robinson.
But the Warriors sent Portola on the foul line twice in the final minute, and the Tigers made them pay. Mario Rodriguez and Soares each made a pair, and Erick Miller drained a three from the top of the key to lead the comeback. Soares drew Alex Potnick’s fifth foul with :11 remaining, and the senior buried both to tie the score at 59.
Whittell junior Alex Vogt pulled the trigger at the foul line before time expired but the shot only found iron.
Both teams came out firing in the four-mintue overtime period. Robinson canned a baseline jumper on a pass from Blake Heldt-Werle to give the Warriors a 61-59 lead, then Miller and Koskin exchanged three-pointers as Whittell forged ahead 64-62. Vogt’s layup put Whittell in front 66-62 with just over 2 minutes left, but it wasn’t enough. Miller started another Portola rally by sinking a three-pointer, then after the Tigers survived several offensive rebounds by the Warriors, the 6-foot-3 Rodriguez went behind his back in the key to get free for a go-ahead layup.
Whittell didn’t panic and responded with a close-range attempt by Robinson, who was fouled on the miss. After misfiring on the first foul shot, Robinson made the second to tie the score at 67 with :24 remaining. Portola ran down the clock to :05 before calling time-out. The Tigers tried to go inside to Rodriguez, but the pass sailed out of bounds.
Possession returned to Whittell near midcourt with :05 left, but the Warriors inbound pass intended for Nelson was picked off by Soares. Soares got to the basket and used a pump fake to pick up Nelson’s fifth foul.
“There was no need (to throw it in the backcourt) with :05 left,” said Rose, who had diagrammed a backdoor cut on the fateful inbound play. “If we get the ball on our side of the court, it doesn’t allow the defense a chance for steal and come down and get two points.”
After missing the first attempt, Soares buried the second to give the Tigers their 10th win of the season.
“They play well at the end like that,” said Portola coach Brad Miller. “They kind of goof around too much, but when it comes to crunch time, they seem to know when to pick it up.”
With :02 to go, the Warriors attempted a length-of-the-court pass, but Robinson wasn’t able to gather himself in time to get off an accurate shot.
“Don’t underestimate anybody,” said Robinson, who grabbed six rebounds, including four offensive. “We just came in with an attitude like it didn’t matter because it wasn’t league and because we have North Tahoe (on Wednesday).”
Miller led Portola with 15 points, while Potnick scored 13 for the Warriors. Robinson, Koskin, Heldt-Werle and Adam Laub each netted nine points for Whittell.
Robinson is hoping that the disappointing overtime loss will motivate his team to play well against the Lakers.
“I sure hope so,” he said.
Garrett Bronken scored eight points for Whittell’s junior varsity in a 50-31 defeat to Portola.
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