Big night for area cagers
Prep basketball has been dribbling along for two weeks now, but tonight the season goes into uptempo mode on the South Shore.
Whittell High plays its boys home opener against former Nevada 3A rival North Tahoe, while Galena, one of the 4A boys preseason region title favorites, visits South Tahoe High.
The Warriors, 2-6, spent the first two weeks growing and learning their roles on the road. Obviously, they are elated to finally have a home game.
“I’m definitely excited and they’re looking forward to it,” said WHS coach Steve Maltase, whose Warriors serve as hosts for a 6 p.m. clash with the Lakers. “I think we have a shot at winning. Last time over there they had pretty good fan support and I’m hoping we can at least duplicate that.”
North Tahoe downed the Warriors 47-36 in the season opener Nov. 28 in Tahoe City. Whittell led 17-10 at the half, but the Lakers took control with timely foul shooting and a frigid second-half shooting display by WHS.
“I think we’re a much better team than we were on Nov. 28, but I’m sure they’ve improved as well,” Maltase said. “I just hope we can score some points. Thirty-six isn’t enough to beat anybody.”
Only two Warriors are scoring in double figures. Senior Bryan Sigel is averaging 13.7 points per game, and freshmen Nick Summers is contributing 12.5. The Lakers are advised not to foul sophomore Nestor Flores, who is draining 92 percent of his foul shots and scoring at a 7-point-per-game clip.
Maltase is looking for more production from his bench, and the recent foul troubles of senior Joel Warnick may encourage that.
Warnick came off the bench to score a career-high 18 points in a 64-58 triumph over Indian Springs on Saturday in Las Vegas.
“We brought him off the bench and that’s one of the keys to keeping him in the game,” Maltase said. “It’s the first game this year he hasn’t fouled out. It’s hard for him to get any flow to the game when he has two or three fouls in the first half.”
Down State Route 50 at STHS, the Vikings are welcoming Galena, the team that is challenging their two-decade reign in Northern Nevada, for a 7 p.m. non league game. The Grizzlies won three straight zone championships until the Vikings ended the ambitious streak last February in Carson City.
Galena, 5-2, has beaten South Tahoe in the zone finals two times in the past four years, but Grizzlies coach Tom Maurer has yet to win a game at the lake.
“The bottom line is that the kids know they have never won at the lake and there are two things I haven’t done: I haven’t won a state championship and I haven’t won at the lake,” Maurer said.
The Vikings, on the other hand, are struggling to right the ship after a 1-4 start.
“We’re really struggling to score, and it will be tough against a team of this caliber this early,” said Vikings coach Derek Allister. “We shoot blanks because we take bad shots. Whether time cures it, I don’t know. Right now we have five individuals at the offensive end. You can’t dribble the ball through your legs and go to the hole one on three. The event is spectacular for a singular moment, but it’s not productive over a long period.”
The addition of senior Chris Ortiz should help the offense as evidenced by his game-high 20 points in a 50-44 loss to Reed on Saturday night in Sparks.
Forward Joe Heaton and 6-foot-9 center Travis Williams are playing well for Galena, according to Maurer. But Maurer, who has nine players back from the 1999-2000 zone runner-ups, is upset that his team hasn’t played up to its potential on the road. The Grizzlies’ biggest wins – 43-38 over St. Francis of San Francisco and 57-53 over Reno in overtime – have come at home. However, the Grizzlies were roughed up by the Bay Area’s St. Ignatius 64-20 and Castlemont 58-49.
Allister is hoping to use tonight’s game to build some momentum for the remainder of the season.
“Sooner or later we need to take a step forward or else we’re going to run out of time,” Allister said. “It would sure be nice to play well, but if we play well and lose, there’s a certain amount of satisfaction you can draw from that.”
If you’re adventuresome and the snow is not too deep, the Viking and Warriors girls have enticing road games tonight.
The South Tahoe girls, 3-5, visit defending state champion Galena at 7 p.m. in Reno. South Tahoe enters the game on a roll, having placed runner-up in the eight-team St. Helena tournament last weekend near Napa.
The Whittell girls, who have two more wins than all of last season, try for a two-game sweep of North Tahoe at 6 p.m. tonight in Tahoe City. Whittell edged North Tahoe 38-37 when Jocelyn Mata nailed a game-winning free throw in the waning seconds Nov. 28.
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