Lady Warriors hoopsters have new coach, dreams of postseason
ZEPHYR COVE, Nev. — Madison Burch wants to win a few more basketball games in her senior year.
She has played for Whittell since she was a freshman and hasn’t won more than eight games in a season or played in a game beyond the regular season.
But the 5-foot-8 forward has playoff hopes this year and that stems from the Warriors new coach, the fourth in four years, Phil Bryant.
The longtime legendary coach, who has a court named in his honor after coaching for 37 years at Westwood High in Northern California and has led the Warrior boys to a pair of state titles, stepped up when the school couldn’t find a suitable option and took over the girls’ program.
“I think from our past years, we’ve improved so much already,” Burch said. “We’re working as a team, we learned how to pass. I don’t even know, we’re learning how to work with each other, who can shoot, who can drive, who can pass, we’ve learned to work as a team this year and that’s something we’ve never done. He’s making us work together instead of having five of us being the No. 1 star.”
Burch starred in the Warriors season-opener Tuesday, scoring 20 points in a 52-34 loss to Smith Valley at Zephyr Cove.
It was a loss, but it was a more pleasing defeat than the way the team started last season.
“Last year we lost to this team by like 45 points, so it’s definitely progress,” Burch said. “We’re already better than last year.”
“The biggest thing is to work on their basketball IQ,” Bryant said. “I’m optimistic. I think our defense will get better. The big thing is keeping their heads up. I think in their first game last year they scored four points and six points in their second game.”
The Warriors won just six games last season and finished seventh out of nine teams in the 1A Western League. The top four finishers qualify for postseason.
Whittell has a full roster of 14 players and will lean heavily on a senior corps of Anna White, Burch, Shaylie Rippett, Brianna Johns, Ayu Gaiser and Bailey Denunzio for leadership — and points.
The Warriors also feature junior Trinity Kirvada-McGowan, sophomores Kyla Rippett, Olivia Craig, Andrea Smith, Ava Campbell and Grace Wolski and freshmen Jessica Johnson and Sokhna Ndoye.
“We have a lot of younger kids,” Burch said. “Not having a JV team and having everyone learn everything at a varsity level and playing with older kids who have been on the team for four years, I think that is going to make us stronger. Everyone knows what they have to do and I think we’re setting a foundation for the future.”
If the Warriors earn a .500 win percentage this season and improve on the 6-14 season a year ago, they should be right on the mix for a playoff berth.
“I wanna go to playoffs,” Burch said. “I’ve never gone so I want to get there. It’s definitely a goal for the team, to get out of league.”