Warriors strive to avoid repeat of ’99 division start
You can see it on their faces. It’s evident by players showing up early for practice to work on their weaknesses.
Even though their record doesn’t show it, Whittell High’s boys basketball team is experiencing a transformation.
Revitalized by a stunning upset of Nevada 4A’s Douglas last Thursday and additional preseason triumphs over Truckee, North Tahoe and Rite of Passage, the Warriors, 4-6, enter 3A Division II play tonight at 7:30 with renewed optimism.
“I think there’s always been potential, but I think this team has more heart. And if we work together, we can beat anyone,” said senior Todd Echan, who is averaging 15 points per game.
“Shoot, we used to have trouble beating 4A JV teams,” said Whittell fifth-year coach Steve Maltase. “The Douglas win was a good one, but it’s not as important as this game (today).
Their heart will be tested tonight as they visit an unfriendly crowd at rival Incline. The Highlanders denied Whittell a three-game sweep in the Battle of the Lake tournament, winning 72-65 Dec. 17 in Zephyr Cove.
“I thought we came out a little overconfident, but I don’t think we’re going to come out overconfident this time,” said Echan, who scored 18 points in the first matchup.
However, it was the accurate long-range shooting of senior point guard Chris Markt that kept Whittell within striking range. Markt sank four 3-pointers and finished with a team-high 23 points to offset the inside dominance of the Highlanders.
“We gave up 23 offensive boards the last time, and we can’t do that and expect to win,” Maltase said. “I think we just got too cocky and we thought Incline would just hand it to us. “We have to make some adjustments to beat Incline. If we don’t rebound and we don’t contain their shooters, we’re not going to win.”
One player who will have the Warriors’ total attention is Jason Lanz. Lanz lit up the Warriors for 29 points the first time.
Maltase is emphasizing the need for a decent divisional start. After opening 0-3 a year ago, the Warriors won five of six in the middle of the season but still missed the playoffs. A one-week layoff during Christmas break contributed to their early season woes, Maltase believes.
“We took a shorter break … three days instead of seven,” Maltase said. “We realize we don’t want to make the same mistake twice. Last year we had some pretty good wins in preseason and then it took us too long to get refocused for the regular season.”
The competition won’t get any easier Friday when the Warriors travel to Dayton, which, along with Manogue, are the preseason favorites, according to Maltase.
“I think we’ve come a long way since our first game,” said Whittell junior Joel Warnick. “We’re just trying to make it to the zone playoffs first and see how it goes from there.”
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