Warrior hoopsters eye return trip to playoffs; host over 20 teams for tournament this week
ZEPHYR COVE, Nev. — Whittell High School has three returning starters from a basketball team a year ago that won 19 games and finished second place in the league standings.
Warriors head coach Phil Bryant is still sorting out his pieces and finding where they fit best. But with over 40 years of coaching experience and several championships under his belt, he’s pretty good at figuring out lineups.
“We’ve got a good core group of returners, but we haven’t yet come together,” Bryant said. “We’re filling in the pieces but it’s early, we don’t really know exactly where we are.”
What he does know is that senior Dylan Wade can flat out shoot the ball, senior Zack Johns is one of the best defenders he’s ever coached and junior Malachi Womack is a tough kid that will battle all night in the paint.
Wade (6-foot-1) was the leading scorer last year at 18.9 points per game. He started off the season in the best way possible, hitting 11 3-pointers, the second most in class 1A history, on his way to 41 points. Both were season highs.
Wade hit 91 treys in just 19 games and was on pace to battle for the season record but played 12 games less than the player with the top mark.
Johns (5-10) was the third leading scorer last year at 12.5 points per game but his eye-popping statistic was his amount of steals, 76, or 3.8 per game.
His sneakers squeak especially loud on the hardwood when he’s playing defense.
Womack (6-1) was the Warriors leading rebounder a year ago at 7.2 per game while averaging just over five points on a team filled with offensive threats.
Bryant is trying to fill out the starting five with juniors Jack White (5-7), Zack Kerho (5-9), Jude Stackpole (6-0), sophomore Troy Dingman (5-7) and freshman James Johnson (6-0).
“Zack (Kerho) has been getting some good minutes and Troy Dingman can shoot and has a good skill set,” Bryant said. “Jack is working hard and James has never really played organized ball but he’s playing well and Jude has grown a bit.”
The Warriors began the 2019-20 campaign last week and won three out of four games at the WREC Tournament in Carlin, Nev.
“The three wins look good on paper, but they were against teams we should beat,” Bryant said. “Our loss came against a pretty decent team, but we beat them last year.”
The Warriors will play four games this coming week at their own event, the Whittell Invitational Basketball Tournament, starting Wednesday with Owyhee, the team that beat them last week 49-40.
Whittell will play three more games in the next three days, vs. Eureka, Coral Academy and Silver Stage.
The Warriors are looking for their first league title since winning the state championship in 2015-16.
“We’re still in a spot where players need to understand their roles in fitting in with the returners,” Bryant said. “This week will help us getting all our pieces put together.”