Warriors win, Warriors win
It was what every basketball player dreams about.
Stepping to the free-throw line with little time on the clock and the game tied.
That’s just what happened Tuesday night in the Whittell High girls basketball home opener.
Jocelyn Mata stepped to the charity stripe and calmly sank the first of her two free throws to secure the Warriors’ first win in over a year and half, defeating the North Tahoe Lakers, 38-37.
“I was thinking that I had to make them,” Mata said. “We wanted to prove to everyone that we are a good team.
“I still can’t believe we won.”
It’s been a long time the Warriors have felt the winning feeling. Last season, WHS suffered through a winless season but now have gotten the monkey off its back with the first win of the season.
“It’s amazing, the best feeling in the world,” senior Emily Bowman said. “This win has set the tone for us.”
The Warriors trailed for most of the contest, falling behind as many as eight in the second half, but never gave up, playing a tough zone defense and making shots when they needed them.
None of the shots were more important than Bowman’s only two attempts of the game. With 10 seconds left in the game, the senior was open on the left wing and fired up a shot from just inside the arc and followed her own miss with the game-tying score.
“It just happened that way,” Bowman said. “I don’t know what I was thinking when I was taking those shots.”
The Lakers came right back the court, attacking the Warrior defense. Kailey Rowan pushed the ball up the court and was fouled by Alisha Roth and headed to the line to secure the win for North Tahoe.
Her shot fell short and point guard Caitlin Fagan brought the ball up the court. Mata set a screen at half-court to allow Fagan more room to dribble when the referee called what looked to be a moving screen.
But, instead of giving Mata the foul, Tracie Prado of North Tahoe was charged with pushing, sending Mata to the line to win the game.
“Jocelyn hitting her free throws was awesome,” Warrior head coach Lindsay Wines said. “But the key to the game was when No. 12 ( Cecily Gehring) fouled out.
“With her gone, they only had one other ball handler.”
Gehring fouled out early in the fourth quarter, causing the Lakers to go to Prado as the primary ball handler.
That, combined with the Warriors full-court press, allowed Whittell to slowly creep back into the contest.
“I kept telling them to be patient … we have plenty of time,” Wines said.
And the Warriors used all of their time to secure their first win.
Fagan led all scorers with 20 points, despite playing the entire second half with four fouls. The senior picked up three quick fouls in the first quarter and her fourth late in the second before sitting out the final minute and a half before halftime.
“She’s not a big fouler,” Bowman said. “As soon as she got her fourth, we got a little scared, but we just stayed together as a team.”
With Fagan’s defense severely hampered because of the fouls, Wines turned to junior Stephanie Evans to pick up the slack. Late in the game, the Warriors switched from their two-three zone to a modified box-and-one with Evans on Prado.
“Steph played just great defense,” Wines said. “She really answered the call when we asked her to take on the bulk of the defense.”
Ashley Berns controlled the boards for the Warriors, pulling down 20 on the night despite the fact Whittell was severely undersized compared to the Laker frontcourt.
“Ashley played a great game,” Wines said. “She got more rebounds that she shouldn’t have, which really made the difference for us.”
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