Warriors finish with win in ’98 | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Warriors finish with win in ’98

Whittell boys basketball coach Steve Maltase didn’t like what he was seeing from his team during Tuesday’s practice. Maltase stopped the drills halfway through practice for a rare impromptu meeting. Somewhat upset, he challenged his players to ask themselves what their goals were for the season

It worked.

On the strength of five fourth-quarter points from forward Todd Echan, the Warriors responded to the gut-check Wednesday night with a 47-44 win over visiting Fernley.

“We talked about what they wanted to get out of the season,” said Maltase, whose squad improved to 5-6 with the victory. “We haven’t been working real hard in practice lately. And losing three straight kind of got the team down. Hopefully this win will help us turn the corner.”

With 1:26 left to play and Whittell trailing 43-42, Echan stood at the line needing to make both shots to reclaim a lead the Warriors hadn’t relinquished since the early stages of the second quarter. With the Vaquero faithful screaming, Echan drained them both to give the Warriors the lead for good.

“We missed a lot of free throws in the fourth quarter,” said Echan, who finished the game with 11 points. “I had missed a few earlier so I was standing up at the end thinking, ‘I got to knock these down.’ I just relaxed, coach told me to bend my knees and they went in.”

On the next Whittell possession, Echan found himself wide-open under the basket after the Warriors broke the Fernley press, narrowly missing a 10-second delay call. A desperation baseball pass from Trent Gordon landed right in Echan’s hands. Despite several botched Warrior lay-ups, Echan planted his feet, turned toward the basket and sunk the shot to give Whittell a decisive three-point lead.

Fernley tossed a flurry of three-point shots in the game’s final minute, but the Vaqueros could not get any closer than three points.

“I think we just came out fired up,” said Whittell forward James Putnam, who altered several Fernley shots and finished with 12 points. “We had a long talk at practice. It picked our heads up and woke us up about what we really want.”

Fernley and Whittell traded the lead several times in the first half. The Vaqueros quick-pass style had Whittell players zig-zagging across the court to keep up with the moving ball. The Warriors used Putnam’s size – and 10 first-half points – to record a 28-24 halftime lead.

Whittell added to the margin in the second half, pushing the lead to seven early in the final quarter. Fernley’s Cody Premo led all scorers with 15 points.

The Warriors begin league play Jan. 5 against rival Incline. Despite holding the seventh – and last – spot in the coaches’ poll, Putnam feels Whittell can compete with any of the league’s teams.

“We’re going to work hard no matter where we are in the coaches poll,” Putnam said. “Teams can look past us or they can look at us. And we’ll ride right with them.”

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