Warriors earn respect with 2A division title
HAWTHORNE, Nev. – Respect thy opponent. Usually that goes without saying in any sport, but Tonopah forgot that unwritten rule of sportsmanship in the Northern Nevada 2A boys basketball championship Saturday.
As Whittell High players warmed up by themselves prior to the division championship, they must have felt the 20-1 Muckers were planning to forfeit. The Muckers treated the pregame warmups as inconsequential and didn’t show up on the court until right before the opening tipoff. Whittell was deeply offended and took it out on the Muckers, streaking to a 17-9 first-quarter lead en route to a 49-47 championship win at Mineral County High School.
“We didn’t even see them practicing, so we knew they didn’t respect us and we took it to them,” said senior Bryan Sigel, who paced the Warriors with a game-high 21 points. “We took that as an insult when they didn’t warm up when we were there. All we saw were their cheerleaders.”
Tonopah coach Dean Schultz said he had no intention of slighting the Warriors, that he and his team were late arriving to the gym.
“We were late getting out, and that’s what some of the kids said, ‘If we would have had more time, it would have been different,’ ” Schultz said. “I can see it making a difference in first quarter, but I can’t see it making a difference in the second, third and fourth quarters.”
The victory propelled the Warriors (13-13) into Thursday’s state semifinals at Lawlor Events Center in Reno. Whittell plays The Meadows in one semifinal, while Tonopah, last year’s state runner-up, meets West Wendover.
When Denver Bethel rifled a pass through the key to Jordan Boyd for an uncontested layup, putting Tonopah ahead 44-43 with 2 minutes, 23 seconds left, it looked as if the Warriors’ weekend of surprises was coming to an end. Even though the basket gave Tonopah its first lead since the opening minute, Whittell began to demonstrate its depth of character.
“Down the stretch it was tough, but they got it done,” said Whittell coach Steve Maltase.
With time running out, Whittell continued its fourth-quarter shooting struggles and lost Joel Warnick to his fifth foul with 1:37 remaining. But after David Otteson missed the front end of a one-and-one, Jake Summers passed it into Sigel in the low post for the go-ahead basket with 1:05 left.
Senior Luke Forvilly enhanced Whittell’s chances when he poked away the ball to Nick Summers with 40.6 to go.
But Summers missed a layup, his third miss from the field in 90 seconds, to give Tonopah another opportunity to take the lead. League-leading scorer Denver Bethel responded by hitting two free throws with 29.9 remaining, giving Tonopah a 46-45 lead.
However, Boyd fouled Nick Summers seconds later and the freshman drained both, restoring Whittell’s one-point edge.
With 10.6 left, Forvilly was called for a rebounding foul as he was knocked to the floor, giving Boyd a pair of free tosses.
“I got tackled by two guys,” Forvilly protested.
Boyd only made the second of the two freebies, tying the game at 47.
What ensued will be relived by Whittell fans for years to come. Nick Summers, sensing that he could take Bethel to his left because the Tonopah star was restricted with four fouls, drove to the basket hard and converted the same left-handed finger roll he had missed minutes earlier.
“I knew I had to take it because it was there,” said Nick Summers, who finished with 15 points. “I needed to do something because I wasn’t shooting too well.”
Maltase said, “Nick is an intelligent player and he’s smart enough to execute down the stretch. He knew that guy was going to lay off him and he attacked the rim.”
By the time Tonopah called a time-out, only 2.1 remained. Tonopah used an additional time-out after seeing Whittell’s defensive alignment. But after inbounding the ball to Boyd, the senior guard double dribbled before releasing a potential game-winning shot.
“My heart was throbbing, dude, because that’s how Hawthorne beat us,” Sigel said.
Schultz was disappointed in his players but respected how Whittell played as a team.
“Our guys weren’t ready to play, and the Warriors did exactly what they were supposed to do – play disciplined basketball,” Schultz said.
As if the Warriors needed an additional reason to raise their intensity after upsetting Lovelock on Friday to qualify for state, Tonopah inexplicably gave it to them.
“You come to play, you come to play,” said Sigel of the pregame insult. “We’ll give you a game. We’re going to take it to whoever comes up against us.”
The warmed-up Warriors shot out to a comfortable lead early behind steals by Sigel and Nick Summers and layins by Luke Forvilly and Sigel. Sigel also fired in a 3-pointer and followed up Joel Warnick’s missed free throw to complete a four-point possession, which put Whittell ahead 13-4 with 3:33 to go in the first period.
“Usually, we do pretty bad in the first quarter. It’s always our worst quarter,” said Forvilly, who contributed eight points. “But in the games we have come out and done well in the first quarter, we’ve usually won. After the first quarter, everyone was confident that we were going to have a good game.”
Whittell maintained a six to 10-point edge until early in the fourth quarter. Nestor Flores, the star of Whittell’s win on Friday, picked up his fifth foul with 6:14 remaining and the Warriors in front by eight.
“That was a good test for us,” Maltase said. “Nick and Sigel stepped up and played well in the backcourt with tremendous pressure from Denver.”
Nick Summers and Flores were selected to the all-tournament team, and Sigel was named the tournament’s MVP.
“That’s a cherry on top,” Sigel said. “I’m just happy we got zone. I didn’t even expect MVP.”
Flores carries Warriors on back
Senior Bryan Sigel and freshman Nick Summers have done most of the scoring for Whittell during the 2000-2001 season, while sophomore guard Nestor Flores has quietly gone about leading the team to its share of victories with his smothering defense and passing.
Well, Nestor “The Interceptor” Flores saved one of his best offensive outputs for the right game – the division semifinals. Flores personally carried the Warriors into the state tournament for the first time in seven years by scoring 21 points in a come-from-behind 58-54 victory over Lovelock on Friday in Hawthorne.
Flores assumed more of an offensive burden after Sigel, Nick Summers and Joe Warnick were assessed their fourth fouls in the third period.
“Nestor was our leader tonight,” Nick Summers said. “He kept us together and did it for us for two quarters.”
Whittell trailed 30-21 at halftime, but Flores ignited a third-quarter spurt with three steals in the first two-and-a-half minutes. Sigel hit back-to-back baskets, Flores scored on a breakaway layup and Nick Summers canned two free throws to bring Whittell within 30-29 with 5:43 left in the third period.
But only seconds later, Nick Summers was called for his fourth foul and within a span of two minutes Sigel was whistled for his second, third and fourth fouls.
“The other guys picked up and the slack and it was a total team effort,” said Warrior coach Steve Maltase, who received invaluable contributions off the bench from Jake Summers, Alex Swearingen and Mike Ingenluyff.
Lovelock gradually reclaimed a six-point edge going into the fourth period.
Sensing their season slipping away, Maltase and assistant coach John Summers elected to reinsert Nick Summers and Sigel into the lineup one foul away from disqualification.
“We really didn’t discuss it, but we had the same instinct,” Maltase said. “We just looked each other at the time and said it’s time to get these guys back in the game.”
At full strength, Whittell only needed 2:32 to go ahead 44-43 on Nick Summers’ putback of a missed free throw.
From then on, the struggle was a battle of will. Neither team led by more than three points until the final second.
A driving bucket by Matt Jones put Lovelock ahead 50-48 with 2:30 left, but Jones missed the ensuing free throw. But a free throw by Sigel and a layup by Nick Summers put Whittell back in front, 51-50, with 1:49 remaining.
However, Whittell lost its leading scorer 38 seconds later when Sigel fouled Richard Vasquez while going for a defensive rebound.
“I was so scared, but I still had confidence in my guys,” Sigel said.
Vasquez made the first free chance, but missed the second and fouled Nick Summers on the rebound.
Summers connected on one of two to put Whittell ahead 52-51.
Joel Warnick blocked Jones’ shot from behind on Lovelock’s next possession, but the Warriors failed to come up with the rebound. Jesse Cholico did and fired in a heart-wrenching 3-pointer to give Lovelock a 54-52 lead with :47 remaining.
But Flores responded to the challenge by penetrating on the 5-foot-5 Jones, converting the basket and free throw for a 55-54 advantage.
“I just knew (Jones) was going to play tough ‘D’ because it was really close, so I took advantage of that and got by him,” Flores said.
Jones had two chances to put Lovelock ahead, but both shots clanged off the back rim. Summers was fouled after coming up with the rebound and calmly swished both free throws, making the score 57-54 Whittell.
“I wanted them,” Nick Summers said. “Me and Nestor we were confident we could make the free throws at the end.
“That’s what all the practice is for, right there. That’s why you do it.”
Cholico misfired on a potential game-tying 3-pointer and Flores ran down the rebound and was fouled with 1.3 left. He made the second of two free throws to put the game out of reach.
“My shots were falling. I just stepped up and decided to go hard to the rack,” Flores said.
The unexpected win showed Maltase how far his team has come in their sub-.500 season.
“I’m so proud of the kids right now,” Maltase said. “I’ve never felt like this before. It feels incredible.
“It took the whole 32 minutes to get it done, but the kids kept believing in themselves, they fought and they deserved to win in the end.”
NORTHERN NEVADA 2A DIVISION CHAMPIONSHIP
WARRIORS 49, TONOPAH 47
Saturday at Hawthorne
WHITTELL (49) – N. Summers 4-12, 7-9, 15; Flores 0-4, 1-2, 1; Sigel 9-13, 2-3, 21; Warnick 2-8, 0-4, 4; Forvilly 3-6, 2-3, 8; J. Summers 0-2, 0-0, 0; Swearingen. Totals 18-45, 12-21, 49.
TONOPAH (47) – McNair 2-7, 2-4, 6; Bethel 3-13, 4-6, 11; Clifford 3-5, 1-4, 7; Lehner 4-7, 3-5, 11; Galvin 2-6, 1-2, 5; Boyd 3-7, 2-3, 7; Otteson 0-1, 0-1, 0. Totals 17-45, 12-24, 47.
3-point field goals: Sigel; Bethel. Fouled out: Flores, Warnick; Lehner.
Whittell 17 9 8 15 – 49
Tonopah 9 9 10 19 – 47
FRIDAY’S 2A SEMIFINAL
WARRIORS 58, LOVELOCK 54
WHITTELL (58) – Flores 21, Forvilly 6, N. Summers 13, Sigel 15, J. Summers 3, Ingenluyff, Warnick, Swearingen.
LOVELOCK (54) – Jones 15, Cholico 15, Vasquez 13, Knight 4, Santos 3, Canchola 4 – 54.
Whittell 14 7 16 21 – 58
Lovelock 17 13 13 11 – 54
3-point field goals: Flores 2, Sigel , J. Summers; Jones 2, Cholico 2. Fouled out: Sigel, Vasquez.
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