Whittell boys hold off North Tahoe
Tahoe Daily Tribune
TAHOE CITY, Calif. – Austin Neil’s red-hot first half proved too much for the Lakers to overcome.
The Whittell junior torched rival North Tahoe for 18 points on six three-pointers in the first half alone – and 26 points on seven threes in the game – and the Warriors held off a strong second-half comeback to earn a physical, 57-47 win to open Mount Rose League play Friday.
“I was stoked – 18 points in the first half. That was probably the best half of my life. Hopefully it wasn’t the last,” said Neil, who conceded that the basket appeared “double the size of normal” to him.
Behind the accurate shooting of Neil, who set the tone with two threes to start the game, Whittell jumped out to a quick 17-4 lead by the end of the first period, which ended with another three-ball by Neil, who hit four in the quarter.
The lead grew to 18 in the second quarter as the Warriors applied a full-court press that created multiple turnovers and held the frustrated Lakers to few offensive possessions. When the Lakers did get a good look at the hoop, the ball rarely fell through the net.
“It was definitely a good first half,” said Whittell head coach Matt Bryant, whose Warriors improved to 2-4 overall and 1-0 in Mount Rose League play as the Lakers fell to 4-8 and 0-1. “We had a four-game losing streak, so it was nice to break that.”
A bucket in the paint by Austin Buyak to start the the third quarter gave Whittell its largest lead of the night, 31-12. But the big lead was not secure just yet.
The Lakers – who came out of the halftime break with a plan to beat the press – flipped the script, scoring the next eight points to cut the lead to 11 points, 31-20. Perhaps more importantly, they re-ignited the large crowd that turned out to support them on winter homecoming.
Midway through the fourth quarter, trailing 45-32, Brendon Arnold began to impose his will in the paint. The North Tahoe senior post player hit three consecutive shots, converting an alley-oop thrown by Colin Spencer before muscling up a shot the next time down the floor and then putting back an offensive rebound the next time down.
Mitchell Myers then drained a leaning jumper along the baseline before Buyak ended the 8-0 run with a layup in transition. The Lakers again would not go away. Eduardo Rodriguez and Arnold scored inside on consecutive possessions, and suddenly the lead had been trimmed to five points, 47-42, with 1:28 left on the clock.
“We just came out slow, came out cocky thinking we would win on homecoming. We needed to step up, and we did in the second half,” said Arnold, who posted a team-high 22 points, including 11 in the third quarter and eight in the fourth.
A moment later, however, momentum shifted once again as Arnold fouled out of the game. Two North Tahoe players were then ejected after a minor incident on the court.
As Neil secured a rebound, North Tahoe forward Raul Alonzo reached in to tie him up. Neil swung an elbow into Alonzo’s gut, and a few words were exchanged between the two. Two Lakers from the bench apparently walked onto the court and were thus ejected by rule. The officials awarded Whittell a personal foul and two technicals, while Neil was also charged with a technical.
“It’s always been a rivalry. Every year something like that goes on,” Arnold said.
After all the free throws were taken – seven by the Warriors, who made five, and two by the Lakers – Whittell led 52-44 with about a minute remaining as it went on to win.
“I was encouraged by (the comeback),” said North Tahoe head coach Dan Rosenfield. “Our kids never quit. It doesn’t matter how many points they are down or what the situation is. Unfortunately, we couldn’t put the ball in an ocean in the first half, and you need points to win.”
Rosenfield complimented the play of Arnold and sophomore point guard Alex Tyler, as well as the visiting Warriors.
“I thought we played good defense and I thought Whittell played good, hard basketball,” he said. “They are a very smart team and well coached.”
Myers, Rodriguez and Tyler each scored six points for the Lakers, while Buyak scored 14 points and Rodney Aguirre-Rodriguez had seven for the Warriors.
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