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hd: Warriors hope for victories at Lovelock

sub: Whittell boys, girls, need basketball wins in Pershing County

art: Files from Tuesday night

by dan thomas

Whittell High’s slow, backward movement into a corner has caught the attention of Lovelock’s boys before Saturday’s Northern Nevada 3A basketball meeting.

It’s no secret the Warriors (8-11 overall, 4-4 in Division II) need a win after losing their last two. But Lovelock’s intensity may hinge on Friday’s game. Incline stands between now and the Whittell game on Lovelock’s schedule, and will determine whether Lovelock enters Saturday’s meeting at 7-1 or 6-2 in division play. Lance Condie, Lovelock’s sixth-year head coach, will know better how important Saturday’s game will be after what happens Friday.

“A lot of it, for us, depends on Friday night,” he said.

But Whittell already is a wounded team. Before the Jan. 26 weekend, Whittell had a 3-1 perch near the top of the division standings, but lost at Manogue, fended off Incline’s chance for a three-game season sweep, lost to Dayton on a buzzer-beater, then lost by 16 at Yerington.

“We have no choice but to try to bounce back and try to turn things around,” said Whittell head coach Steve Maltase. “It’s been a bad week. I think we exerted a lot of energy in coming back on Tuesday night, and just came out a little flat (Wednesday) night.”

The Warriors still are battling Incline, Yerington and Hawthorne for playoff position. Their playoff hopes will fade with any more losses.

“I think it makes it a little bit harder,” Condie said of his task on Saturday. “I think they’ve sort of backed themselves into a corner now.”

In similar situations this year, Whittell has been dangerous. The Warriors pulled away from Incline at the end of the third meeting between the teams for their first win over the Highlanders, and rallied from 15 points down in the fourth quarter to tie Dayton before Anthony Martinez’s desperation shot gave the Dust Devils a road win.

Regardless of the situation, though, Lovelock’s game will remain the same. The Mustangs lack height, but make up for it with solid defense and a quick, bomb-tossing offense.

“We don’t have any tricks up our sleeves,” Condie said. “If we’re open, we’re shooting.”

Because Lovelock is small, Condie depends on aggressive screening and players who run the floor for his offense to run. John Grenz, a 5-10 senior guard, has been the main beneficiary of those picks, running and gunning to the tune of 20 points per game.

Whittell offsets its lack of height – 5-10 center Todd Echan is the team’s best rebounder – with its old-man-at-the-YMCA defense. When the Warriors stick to their assignments, they force the turnovers that generate fast-break offense. During the fourth quarter Tuesday, Whittell held Dayton without a field goal for 7 minutes, 13 seconds, mainly by pinning the Dust Devils in the back three-quarters of the court.

Those turnovers helped Whittell’s leading scorer, senior swingman Avery Norman, to get back in the offensive flow. Norman didn’t score in the second quarter, but had 11 of his game-high 20 points in the fourth period.

Maltase plans on blending tough defense with ball-control against Lovelock.

“We’re just going to try to limit their shots, keep them off the boards and just try to take care of the ball,” he said.

The Warriors and Mustangs tip off at 7:30 p.m. in Pershing County.

Whittell, Lovelock girls looking for first wins

One thing is certain about Saturday – after Whittell’s girls meet Lovelock in Pershing County, there will be only one winless team in the division.

And both the Warriors (0-7 in Northern Nevada 3A Division II play, 0-19 overall) and Mustangs (0-7 in Division II; 4-13 overall) are striving to make sure they’re not the last team in the division without a win.

“I think we match up pretty well,” Warriors head coach Lindsay Wines said. “Size-wise, we’re pretty equal. They run the same press we do.”

Mustangs head coach Jim Safford, who took over a young team this year after coaching the junior varsity last year, said he likes his team’s chances, but didn’t elaborate.

“We’re young, and we play everybody well, we’re just able to get the last few points,” Safford said.

Lovelock’s lineup is in more flux than Whittell’s. Safford had not decided which front-line players would join his two 5-4 leading scorers, Missy Safford and Michelle Carpenter, in the starting lineup. Safford, a senior, has played varsity all four years, and Carpenter is a sophomore who has stepped up to play well.

Whittell is settled, with guards Caitlin Fagan, Nichole Wasson and swing player Ashley Roth joining forward Courtney Benvenuto and center Ashley Berns in the starting lineup. Fagan scored 18 in Wednesday’s loss at Yerington, Berns came within three rebounds of a school record in a home loss to Incline Jan. 31, and Wines said Benvenuto – a senior playing her first year of basketball – was the hot shooter in Thursday’s practice. Whittell has addressed some of the problems it has had throughout the season.

“Those are definitely things that will help carry us into the game,” Wines said.

The Mustangs and Warriors tip at 6 p.m. Saturday in Pershing County.

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