Whittell boys b-ball aims to defend state title
The Whittell boys basketball team captured the first state championship in program history last season. The Warriors don’t plan on waiting long to deliver another.
“Our goal is to win another state championship,” Warriors junior point guard Palmer Chaplin said. “We have a lot of depth and a lot of young guys, so it’s just buying into coach (Phil) Bryant. If we buy into what he says, we’re going to be successful — as long as we’re listening to him and working as a team, I think we’ve got it.”
Whittell lost three players from last year’s state championship team that finished 25-4 and beat Virginia City for the Div. IV crown. The state title came in head coach Phil Bryant’s second season — in the seven seasons prior to his arrival, Whittell had a .229 winning percentage and didn’t finish with more than 10 wins.
“Last year is history — it’s not the same team,” Bryant said. “Even though you’re only replacing a couple parts, new parts are coming in and the engine has to run right — it’s getting everything to come together.”
The 2014-15 Warriors return four players that accounted for 75 percent of the team’s points last season. Chaplin headlines that group — as a junior he averaged a team-high 20.3 points per game and hit a team-high 99 three-pointers.
“There’s not anybody that works like he does,” Bryant said of Chaplin. “This is his game, this is his team and he’s in the gym every morning.”
Chaplin is a co-captain along with senior forward Bryce Bronken, who was second on the team in scoring and rebounding last season. Junior guard Colin Buchholz and junior forward Quinn Kixmiller make up the Warriors’ core group of returning players.
“I think we can definitely repeat as state champs,” Bronken said. “We have a lot of talent and I think we’ll be really good.”
Senior guard Osvaldo Reyes-Lucero and senior forward Jake Sharp played on last year’s state championship team, and will see bigger roles this season. Varsity newcomers include senior Max Primo, junior Andy Delgado, sophomore Dismas Womack along with freshmen Nick Buchholz, Connor Huber, Corey Huber and Troy Libert — Delgado led Whittell’s junior varsity team in scoring last season, and the 6-foot-4-inch Libert adds size inside.
“We have so many options on this team,” Chaplin said. “We have a deep team and that’s helpful.”
Whittell’s success last season came as a slight surprise. This year, the Warriors know they won’t be sneaking up on any opponents.
“We can’t get our heads too big — now there’s a target on our back and every team wants to get us,” Chaplin said. “We have to stay humble and keep working hard — if we don’t have that, then we’re done.”
Entering the season as defending state champions brings added expectations for Whittell. It also provides confidence and motivation.
“It motivates us every day at practice,” Reyes-Lucero said. “Whenever we have a rough day, it gets us going knowing that winning again is our main goal.”
The Warriors plan to again play in fast fashion this season. That uptempo approach includes pressing on defense and looking for the first good shot on every offensive possession.
“There’s no shot clock, and if you don’t press them they can stand around forever,” Bryant said. “If people want to do that against us, we’re going to get after them and get them in a mode of having to make decisions. Somewhere in that passing, there are going to be decision makers that aren’t as good as others — we try to capitalize on that.”
Whittell opened the season Tuesday night at North Tahoe. The Warriors play in the Greenville (Calif.) Tournament Dec. 4-6 and host the Whittell Tournament Dec. 10-13 before opening league play Dec. 19 at Pyramid Lake.
“We have some good tests in front of us — we should be able to see where we are,” Bryant said.
The Warriors have the talent and experience to repeat as state champions this season. And they’re ready to work for it.
“It will take everything we have — there are other teams that are bigger and getting stronger and better,” Reyes-Lucero said. “It will definitely take all of our sweat, all of our minutes on the floor and all of our heart, struggle and hustle to win.”
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