Warriors are game, but can’t break Mustangs
RENO – Three minutes away from the game plan in the third quarter ended the Whittell Warriors’ hopes for a spot in the Nevada 2A boys state basketball championship Thursday morning.
The Warriors, making their first state playoff appearance since 1994, fell to the Meadows Mustangs 58-51 in the semifinals at Lawlor Events Center.
“In the third quarter we started forcing the ball inside and those turnovers led to transition points for them,” Warrior coach Steve Maltase said.
For the first half, the Warriors dictated the pace of the game as they turned the contest into a half-court game. Running their motion offense to perfection created inside shots for freshman Nick Summers and seniors Joel Warnick and Bryan Sigel.
The pace of the game frustrated the Mustangs who like to get into the open court and run the fast break.
Every time The Meadows attempted to open up the game, sophomore point guard Nestor Flores would slow it down again and set up his team’s offense.
“I think our guys were comfortable with the game plan,” Maltase said. “The first half we executed really well.”
To try to stop the motion of the Warriors, the Mustangs began to pack their 2-3 zone down low, daring Whittell to take outside jumpers.
But the Warriors remained patient, passing on the perimeter before finding Summers or Sigel cutting down low.
“We were just running our flex offense and I got open a couple of times under the basket,” said Summers, who paced the Warriors with 16 points. “Nestor did a great job of finding us down low, and Bryan hit some jumpers to get us going.”
Mustang coach Greg Goorjian saw his team wasn’t adjusting to the Whittell offense as quickly as he wanted.
“We knew we were getting back-screened away from the ball and the kids did a good job of making adjustments and talking a little more on defense,” the first-year coach said. “Those back-screens, if no one tells you they’re coming, you’re gonna get hung up.”
The patience of the Warriors paid off, giving them a 31-26 lead heading into halftime.
But it was the aforementioned three minutes in the third period that was Whittell’s undoing. Both teams came out of the break a bit slow. However, it was The Meadows who woke up first.
The Warriors forced a couple quick shots, allowing the Mustangs to open up their fast-break offense to take the lead.
“The way the game was going, we had to pick up the tempo and try to apply more pressure,” Goorjian said. “It’s very tough at any level to play against that type of offense, especially when you like to play fast.”
The Warriors attempted to run with the Mustangs, but quickly found out how athletic the Las Vegas school really was. The Mustangs used the athleticism of their guards, Adam Thomas and Mike Paulos, who hit buckets on three consecutive fast breaks to pull The Meadows within one.
“I don’t know what happened,” Sigel said. “We just got outhustled for rebounds.
“We were boxing them out, but they just got the extra chances.”
Jack Morgan, who had a miserable day at the free-throw line (3-11), hit a charity shot to give the Mustangs a momentary lead at 39-38, but senior Luke Forvilly was able to hit a circus-like shot to give the Warriors a one-point edge heading into the fourth quarter.
However, the Mustangs continued their run-and-gun attack to open the final period and took the lead for good.
As The Meadows began to pull away, the long jumpers of the Warriors didn’t find the bottom of the net and the motion offense seemed to break down.
“They had a big rally and we weren’t hitting our outside jumpers,” Flores said. “Nothing was falling for us at that point.
“In the second half, we were trying to force passes inside and force shots.”
Summers hit a 3-pointer with 2:07 left to pull the Warriors to within four at 51-47. The shot was one of seven of his 17 attempts to find the net.
“It was hard for him to judge his shot,” Sigel said of Summers’ 41 percent shooting. “He kept telling me he couldn’t get used to the rims and the floor.
“It took him the whole game to find his shot.”
The Mustangs came back down and missed a quick shot, but the Warriors lost momentum when Forvilly was called for a charge on the Warriors’ fast break.
On the next possession, Summers was called for a charge and the Warriors were forced to foul to extend the game.
Summers and Warnick both fouled out trying to stop the clock.
“You had to foul at that point,” said Summers, who only had two fouls with 5:30 to go. “I was there and I had to foul. I wanted to be in there in the last minute.”
As it was, Summers was forced to watch from the bench as time expired on his and the rest of the Warriors’ season.
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