Warriors struggle, fall to Falcons in battle of top Western League teams
The Warriors finally emerged from their locker room Wednesday night well after most of the fans had exited the gymnasium.
It was a long, emotional postgame meeting after a disappointing and frustrating 45-33 loss to the Sierra Lutheran Falcons in front of their home crowd in Zephyr Cove.
“It was longer than normal, everyone was upset, we were in a down mood,” said Warriors senior co-team captain Corey Huber. “We didn’t get screamed at, I mean, coaches were calm, they were just like, ‘Hey, we know you can play better.’ We don’t like to disappoint them with our play and tonight it feels like we did. We turned the ball over I don’t know how many times. And you can’t do that in big games against teams like this who are competing for league championships and playoffs. You have to cherish every possession.”
The 1A Western League loss to the Falcons broke Whittell’s 12-game win streak and moved the Warriors (14-2, 6-1 Western) into second place percentage points behind Mineral (11-4, 5-0 Western), who they will play Friday, Jan. 12, in Hawthorne, Nevada.
“We were uncharacteristic tonight,” said Warriors head coach Phil Bryant. “We took bad shots and made so many bad decisions. I think in high school basketball, your best players have to perform and they didn’t do that tonight. At the NBA, college and even in the Kahle community basketball league, the best players have to perform for the team to win. Tonight they were uncharacteristic in their scoring, decision-making, finishing and turnovers.”
The Warriors struggled most of the night with their run-and-gun offense. There was no run and the gun was misfiring. Most of their shots clanked off iron — few sliced through twine. They dribbled balls off their feet and out of bounds. High passes sailed off gymnasium walls.
Whittell and Sierra Lutheran were tied 13-13 after the first quarter and it became more challenging for the Warriors from there. They didn’t score in the second period for over four minutes at the start of the eight-minute quarter but it wasn’t like the Falcons were pulling away. The Warriors were only down 19-15.
Trent Dingman hit a short jumper to tie the game at 19 but the Falcons took a 21-19 lead into halftime.
Sierra Lutheran extended its lead in the third period and headed to the final frame leading 32-26. The Falcons scored all their points from close range on either drives to the hoop or offensive rebounds.
“We got beat by a team that stats-wise couldn’t make anything from more than 2 feet away from the hoop,” Bryant said. “It was layups and second shots. And we missed in the first half 11 shots right at the rim. And it was probably more than that, I just stopped counting.”
The Warriors had a couple of good chances to get right back into the game early in the final eight minutes but missed a layup and committed a turnover on a drive to the hoop.
The missed chances seemed to zap the Warriors. The Falcons pulled away and the Warriors couldn’t get any closer.
The Warriors showed pain and frustration on their faces in the last few minutes.
“What frustrates us the most, if a team comes out and plays a better game than us and beats us, OK, it happens, we can live with that,” Huber said. “But when you come out and give them, not give them, but help them win the game, that’s the worst loss you can have.”
Whittell senior Nic Buchholz was the only Warriors to eclipse his scoring average (7.1) with eight points. Huber scored six points on two 3-pointes in the first quarter, Dingman had eight, Genaro Mena had six and Troy Libert added five.
The Warriors average about 65 points per game.
Bryant says the team’s response Friday will be crucial.
“The positive thing is we’re now tied for second with them and we play Mineral County on Friday so we get a win there and we put everything into a three-way tie,” Bryant said. “Looking at the good side, are we still good enough to win league? Yes. But we can’t have more performances like tonight. Even as bad as we were playing, we still were down by single digits with the ball. We got a couple of good looks to start the fourth quarter and didn’t convert. But the real telltale sign will be how we play on Friday. It’s important how we respond.”
“It’s bounce back time,” Huber said. “Everybody is going to get in the mindset to play defense and stop them from getting to the rim. We still have a lot of games left. We’ll bounce back and work hard tomorrow.”