Serpents strike Warriors
YERINGTON – It wasn’t the going-out game that coach Nathan Tolbert envisioned.
A scoreless fourth quarter capped a frustrating evening for Whittell High as Hawthorne eliminated the Warriors 45-34 in a Northern 2A girls’ regional basketball tournament first-round game on Tuesday night at Rite of Passage.
Afterward, Tolbert announced his resignation following a five-year run of making the postseason.
“I came back this year because I wanted to see my seniors through. I couldn’t leave without knowing someone would be there for them,” Tolbert said.
Whittell took a 34-31 lead in the final eight minutes, but the Warriors no longer had the services of Kendra Koskin. Koskin, a key rebounder and the centerpiece of the Warriors’ offense, fouled out with 52 seconds remaining in the third period.
“I didn’t have anyone who could have played the middle for her, but I should have pulled her anyway,” Tolbert said. “I’m going to second-guess it my entire life.”
Hawthorne wasted no time pulling even as Khortnic Stephens drained a three-pointer on the Serpents’ first possession of the fourth quarter.
Without Koskin and junior Tierney McKool, who missed the game because of an illness, Tolbert tried to shorten the game. The delay seemed to be working as Hawthorne was content to sit back in its 3-2 zone.
But after holding the ball for a little over a minute, Stephens stepped in a passing lane for a steal and converted the turnover into a layup. Alysia Vilareal followed that score with a five-foot shot for the Serpents, and the rattled Warriors continued to struggle to regain their offensive rhythm.
Vilareal led all scorers with 17 points.
In the closing minutes, the Warriors resorted to fouling, and Hawthorne’s inaccuracy at the line kept Whittell in the game. Hawthorne missed 9-of-14 attempts in the final quarter.
“They have just been playing with a little more intensity and believing in themselves more,” said Hawthorne coach Mike Fitzgerald, whose team advances to the regional semifinals on Friday in Winnemucca.
Hawthorne (9-13) will play top-seeded Battle Mountain on Friday evening. The Longhorns are the two-time defending state champions.
Brittney Makara, one of two Whittell seniors, took the loss especially hard.
“My friend (Koskin) fouled out,” she said, explaining the turning point. “It’s frustrating. We shouldn’t lose to a team like that. In our own gym, we’re so good. It’s frustrating because we never put it together on the court.”
Makara had eight points. Sophomore Isabel Concha-Foley, coming off an ankle injury, led Whittell with 13 points.
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