Warriors can get used to going to state
RENO – As solemn as the faces were in the Whittell High locker room following their 58-51 state semifinal defeat to The Meadows on Thursday, those expressions of dismay should turn to smiles in the years to come.
Whittell’s basketball program is back.
After six straight years of low expectations and losing, the Warriors can’t help but think that the near future holds a few more titles.
“We’re setting the pace for the future,” said Whittell sixth-year coach Steve Maltase. “We’re starting to have some sort of tradition around here based on this successful season.
“We just need to build from here and hope that the young people in our community will see what we’ve done and hopefully take some interest in our program.”
The Northern Nevada 2A zone champions are set in the backcourt for the next two years, with point guard Nestor Flores having two more years of eligibility and shooting guard Nick Summers three.
“The program is getting better and better. We want to carry this reputation on and try to make the playoffs every year,” Flores said. “I think we’ll make state, or the playoffs at least, in the rest of my years because we’ll be pretty good. A lot of guys are going to work over the summer to try and get better.”
Because of foul difficulty, the Warriors showed a glimpse of the future to open the fourth quarter. Sophomores Flores, Alex Swearingen and Jake Summers and freshman Nick Summers were on the floor at the same time, trying to protect a one-point Warrior lead.
The Meadows pounced on the opportunity, outscoring the Warriors 7-1 over the next 2 minutes, 30 seconds to take control of the semifinal. A Nick Summers’ free throw was Whittell’s only mark in the scorebook during the run.
When Gavin Goorjian, son of Mustangs coach Greg Goorjian, knocked down a three with 5:43 remaining for a 46-41 lead, Maltase had no choice but to send seniors Bryan Sigel and Joel Warnick back onto the court with four fouls. But it was too late. The Mustangs had the edge it been pressing for throughout the early morning game.
“It’s awkward when we’re getting in those foul (predicaments),” Maltase said. “We were asking a lot of our young guys. They did a nice job, but we needed those more experienced guys out on the floor.”
What Maltase’s younger players learned this season is that patience can go a long way in determining which team win and loses. Without a shot clock to force Whittell to take bad shots, the Warriors repeatedly passed until they pinpointed the best opportunity available.
“They’re a young team and they’re very patient. And that works in high school basketball,” said coach Goorjian. “It’s very tough at any level to play against that type of offense, especially when you like to play fast.”
Conjecture has followed the younger Summers even before he enrolled at Whittell. The overriding question has been how long Summers would remain at the school.
But his dad’s postgame comments concerning the team’s bright future seemed to put those rumors to rest.
“We’re not done yet,” promised John Summers, a Whittell assistant.
Nick Summers agreed:
“We’ll be back next year or the year after,” he said. “We just need to keep playing and get better. It will be tough to replace (Bryan) Sigel, Luke and Joel, but Alex and Jake will step up next year and we have a decent JV program.”
Warnick likes their chances, too, after this year’s squad taught him a valuable lesson.
“If you would have asked me at the beginning of the basketball season if we’d make state, and I would have said, ‘Probably not,’ he said. “Don’t judge something when it starts. Even if you think you’re not good enough, there’s always a chance.”
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