Whittell boys b-ball begins league title defense
The defending Div. IV Northern West League champion Whittell boys basketball team opened league play by picking up where it left off last season. The Warriors beat Pyramid Lake and Coleville in a two-day span last week, extending their current winning streak to six games.
“We know we still have a long way to go but we feel we are the team to beat in the league along with Virginia City and Excel Christian,” Warriors head coach Phil Bryant said. “There are no guarantees and we know what we need to do to get in the playoffs.”
In its league debut Friday night, Whittell edged Pyramid Lake 50-46 on the road. The Lakers dealt the Warriors their only league defeat last season, and Whittell had to hang on for a narrow victory in the teams’ first meeting this year.
“It is a tough place to play,” Bryant said. “They really do all they can to dictate a deliberate tempo and we didn’t respond well. We talked about all this before the game and emphasized the importance of making every possession count.”
Poor decisions and a lack of intensity hurt Whittell early on against Pyramid Lake. The Warriors trailed 11-6 after the first quarter and faced a 23-18 deficit at halftime after an even second quarter.
“We used halftime to go over what adjustments we needed to make,” Bryant said. “It came down to more defensive pressure and less mental mistakes.”
Whittell bounced back after the break, outscoring the Lakers 13-2 in the third quarter. The Warriors had a six-point lead at the start of the fourth, and held off Pyramid Lake from the free-throw line down the stretch — guard Palmer Chaplin made 12-of-14 attempts in the last frame en route to a game-high 29 points.
“We do this free-throw shooting game in practice called ‘most in a row’ and Palmer told me he was thinking about that at the line,” Bryant said.
Chaplin finished the game 15-for-18 from the free-throw line. In addition to a season-high 29 points, the junior had six rebounds, five assists and six steals.
“Palmer basically took over the game offensively with his penetration and defensively with his leadership,” Bryant said. “He has really become much more of a complete player this year with his assist totals way up, his turnovers down and his ability to score from anywhere.”
Forward Quinn Kixmiller scored eight points and pulled down 10 rebounds against Pyramid Lake. Forward Bryce Bronken added six points.
On Saturday, Whittell rode a massive first quarter to a 73-22 victory over Coleville. The Warriors started fast on their home court, and opened up a commanding 40-6 lead after the first eight minutes.
“They caught us in one of the best team games Whittell has played in my three years here,” Bryant said. “The first quarter was a clinic in passing and defense — everyone had a hand in the numbers and everyone on our team played in the first quarter.”
Whittell backed off its full-court press midway through the first quarter but continued to pressure the Wolves when they crossed half court. The Warriors led 56-15 at halftime en route to a 51-point rout that pushed their overall record to 10-1.
Chaplin had a double-double of 15 points and 12 assists in the win to go along with eight rebounds and three steals. Forward Troy Libert also finished with 15 points — along with four rebounds and two blocks — in his best game so far this season.
“It was a real coming out for Troy,” Bryant said. “We have been waiting for a breakout game from him and this was it.”
Guard Colin Buchholz scored 10 points and had five steals against Coleville, and guard Dismas Womack finished with a season-high 10 points. Guard Corey Huber added six points as he continues to establish a spot in the Warriors’ rotation.
Whittell has two weeks off before returning to action Jan. 6 against Sierra Lutheran. The Warriors head into the break with a 10-1 record after winning their first two league contests.
“We have quite a few days off but we will be practicing hard over the holidays to be ready when we get back,” Bryant said. “In the past, the Whittell boys were not big on giving up time to workout over the Christmas vacation — they consider it a responsibility now and they come in and put in their time.”