Warriors control their fate in division playoff race
At least, the struggling Whittell High boys basketball team controls its destiny in pursuit of a playoff position.
The Warriors must win one of its two remaining games this weekend to qualify for the Nevada 2A Northern Division tournament. Four of the division’s five teams qualify for the Feb. 16-17 tournament in Hawthorne.
After a 2-1 division start, the Warriors looked like a team that would send in its playoff reservations well in advance.
But Whittell lost a home game in the final seconds to Hawthorne, 55-54, on Jan. 26 and the team hasn’t won a division game since then.
“You hate to have a game haunt you like that, because it’s a game we should have won,” said Whittell coach Steve Maltase. “We’ve had our ups and downs the last couple of weeks. It would be nice to end the season with some consistency.”
Whittell’s first opportunity to clinch comes Friday in its home finale against bitter rival Incline. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
“When you play Incline you can throw all the records out, because it’s just going to be a battle,” said Maltase, whose Warriors won 55-49 at Incline on Jan. 20. “It’s going to come down to who wants it more. It’s sitting there waiting for them; all they need to do is take it.”
Whittell’s full-court pressure defense troubled Incline in the first meeting, and the Warriors had some problems with the Highlanders’ height.
“They’re tough to defend, hit the boards pretty well and they don’t give up, so they are going to be a tough match,” Maltase said. “We’re quicker than they are, so we want to try and get them into a little more of transition game.”
If the Warriors lose to Incline, they can still qualify for the division tournament by winning at Hawthorne on Saturday. Hawthorne is 1-5 entering the final weekend and must also play league-leading Tonopah on Friday. Incline plays host to second-place Lovelock on Saturday.
By finishing third, the Warriors would play Lovelock in the division semifinals. If they come in fourth, they must play unbeaten league champion Tonopah.
“We want to finish as high as possible,” Maltase said. “We’re not concerned with who our opponent might be. We want to go into the tournament on a positive note and playing well.”
Each of the teams that advance to the division tournament championship qualify for the Nevada 2A state tournament the following week.
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