Whittell hoops off to strong start, hosts tournament this week

ZEPHYR COVE, Nev. — The Whittell Warriors boys’ basketball team has stormed out of the gate to open the season winning five straight games.

The Warriors began the season Monday, Nov. 29, with a 71-24 victory over Westwood in northern California, the former stomping grounds of longtime head coach Phil Bryant who had the court named after him, “Coach Bryant Court.”

Whittell had four players score in double figures including senior Troy Dingman (13), senior Kyle Pacak (12), junior James Johnson (10) and sophomore Andre Smith (10). Johnson added seven rebounds and six steals, and Dingman and Smith each had five rebounds and six steals.

After not being the nicest of guests, Bryant took his team to Elko for the annual WRECK tournament and swept four games in three days against fellow class 1A opponents.

“Our defense was fairly solid as only one opponent scored in the 30’s while all others were held below 30,” Bryant said. “The problem is on the offensive end where we haven’t learned to share the ball or trust teammates. Only three of the total players had ever played in a high school game prior to the start of the week.”

The Warriors tipped off the tournament Thursday, Dec. 2, with a 48-28 win over Round Mountain.

Dingman went off for the Warriors, netting 34 points, or 71% of Whittell’s total points. He hit 7 of 10 from beyond the 3-point line and also added five rebounds.

Smith scored six points and added seven rebounds.

The Warriors followed that with a 47-29 victory over Carlin behind Johnson’s 16 points and six rebounds. He also hit three 3-pointers.

Pacak added 11 points, including three from beyond the arc, and three steals, Dingman had nine points and seven rebounds and Smith added seven points and eight boards.

On Friday, Dec. 3, Whittell beat Owyhee 43-38.

Johnson scored 14 points and grabbed nine boards, Smith netted 12 points, hauled in seven boards and made four steals and Dingman had five points and 10 rebounds. Pacak added seven rebounds.

On Saturday, Dec. 4, the Warriors capped off a perfect tournament with a 38-29 victory over Tonopah.

Smith scored 10 points and grabbed six boards and Johnson added seven points and six rebounds.

Bryant was pleased with his “big three” of Dingman, Johnson and Smith and the strong support from Pacak, Jackson Kealey and James Orcutt.

“Those three shooters can all score in bunches but their percentages are a little low so shot selection can improve with a little more work,” Bryant said. “Kyle has been a big surprise and has adapted very well from the soccer field to the basketball court. His defense and hustle has been a key to our defense.”

Bryant is pleased that his team has started 5-0 but emphasized that there was still a lot of room left for growth.

The Warriors are scheduled for four more games this week in their own “Madness in the Mountains” tournament that begins Thursday and features more than 50 games between about three dozen teams, including Incline Village and North Tahoe.

Whittell will play Wells at 6:15 p.m. Thursday, Pershing County at 8:15 p.m. Friday and against Eureka at 12:15 p.m. Saturday and also against Mammoth at 4 p.m.

“No one has expected much from us this season, especially after our scrimmage performance two weeks ago, but if we improve on our offensive schemes we could be a factor,” Bryant said. “Right now our team efficiency is about 40% and I need more leadership from those big three. They can each score but it’s the total scoreboard points that matter, not the individual stats. They are capable and can lead us a long way if they make the right decisions. As a coach I need to get into our depth a little more and open up some minutes for other players as our pace seems to slow down late in a game. All in all, I am pleased with the start but want us to work hard to be better.”

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