Warriors make strong showing in league opener
Five seconds remained in the game for senior guard Brian Jones to make the layup that would put the Warriors up by one against the Smith Valley Bulldogs. But senior post Dan Ragan was only half a second away, and slapped Jones’ wrist before he could line up the shot.
Jones went to the line with Bulldog fans stomping on the bleachers and screaming their hearts out as Jones’ two free throws bounced capriciously around the rim before falling away.
The Warriors made a last stab at overcoming the one-point spread that separated the two schools, knocking the ball out of bounds in the final seconds. The Bulldogs made the throw-in, and held on long enough for time to expire to win 58-57 in a game that could have gone either way.
It was the season opener for both teams, and the Warriors’ first game under new head coach Brian Mehrer, who was looking to make his 100th win. It would have been a grand way to go, with the Warriors overcoming an 11-point deficit after the third quarter to outscore the Bulldogs in the final quarter 21-16, but strong Bulldog shooting and defense held it off for another day.
“It was a heartbreaker,” Mehrer concluded.
Even it the Warriors make Mehrer’s 100th win by 100 points it may not be as sweet as the one-point game that got away.
Then again, maybe not. The Warriors played a strong game, spreading the points around their starting lineup, making steals, pulling out from behind and, generally speaking, impressing their new coach.
“I was very pleased,” Mehrer added, moments after the game somehow slipped out from between the Warriors’ teeth. “They came out a lot better than I expected. I’m excited about these guys. They came out with a lot of heart and played well.”
Moreover, the Warriors exposed some of their own weaknesses. They missed a few easy shots from the paint and turned the ball over on a handful of dangerous passes. They also lost out on defense by not sprinting back during the Bulldogs’ fast break.
But the Warriors can’t discount the Bulldogs’ game either. They, too, overcame a 17-9 deficit after the first quarter to finish the second quarter trailing 27-25. The took a strong lead in the third quarter, outscoring the Warriors 17-9.
Senior 5-foot-11 wing Kevin Savidge led the team with 18 points. Freshman phenom Jacob Fletcher, a 6-foot wing, was right on his heals with 13, and junior Donald Shehady had nine.
“It went well as planned,” said head Bulldog coach Rich Miller. “They saw it really well and they’re catching on. I’m real excited … we have seven or eight kids that could play, and they all came out and played up to their capabilities.”
Senior 5-foot-11 Warrior guard Jake Summers demonstrated why he is among Whittell’s top athletes by scoring a team high 18 points. Senior 6-foot guard Brian Jones scored 11 and post Joe Ilk had eight.
Bulldog girls have an easier ride
The Bulldog girls’ team had a much less stressful game, leading from the beginning, but nearly letting the Warriors back in the final seconds in their 37-32 opening game victory.
After trailing by as much as 13, the Warriors cut the lead down to seven after a three-pointer from senior Ashley Wines and nice layups from sophomore Katie Green and senior Marie Peterson.
But the Warriors couldn’t stop the Bulldog firepower from senior 5-foot-9 wing Danielle Leinassar and senior 5-foot-9 wing Bethany Locklear.
Leinassar led the Bulldogs with 19 points and Locklear followed suit with 12.
The Warriors rearranged their defense to box the two leading scorers in the last half, outscoring the Bulldogs 14-9, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the 28-18 first half that had put the Bulldogs on top.
“We have some good girls with a lot of talent and a lot of heart,” said Bulldog head coach David Vick.
Junior Jenna Hayes and Wines both scored 10 points for the Warriors. Peterson, Whitney Gielow and Green each scored four points.
“We did a lot of good things on defense,” said head Warrior coach Lindsay Wines. “On offense we need some work. Like I said the other night, they weren’t comfortable with the offense and it showed.”
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