Whittell boys b-ball punches ticket to Las Vegas, falls in regional title game
SPRING CREEK, Nev. — The Whittell boys basketball team is headed to Las Vegas to defend its Div. IV state championship. The Warriors won two games at the Div. IV Northern Region tournament to earn a state berth before falling to Virginia City 37-33 in the regional title game last Saturday at Spring Creek High.
“It’s on to Las Vegas and the opportunity to make more memories,” Warriors head coach Phil Bryant said. “Three years ago, I don’t think anyone thought Whittell basketball would be where it is now — it’s because of these guys that we are doing what we are doing.”
In Saturday’s game, a familiar matchup produced a painfully familiar result for the Warriors in an all-Div. IV West League title game. Offensive woes cost Whittell in a four-point loss to Virginia City, the second straight season the Muckers beat the Warriors for the Northern Region title.
“The Virginia City game was one of the most unusual I have ever been involved with as a player or a coach,” Bryant said. “Neither team looked very good or very efficient — they just kind of outlasted us and we still had three shots at it. “
Both the Warriors and Muckers had season-low scoring outputs in the regional championship game, their third meeting of the season. Whittell’s struggles offensively included three single-digit quarters — the Warriors came into the game with only four for the whole season.
“We have always told our players that single-digit scoring quarters are not going to be enough to win games,” Bryant said. “It wasn’t their defense that caused the problem, because we had several good looks throughout the game and just didn’t make shots.”
Whittell (25-3) shot 28 percent from the field in the loss on 14-of-50 shooting. Virginia City (28-3) wasn’t much better, but was able to escape the defensive struggle with a win to earn the North’s top seed in this weekend’s state tournament.
“As a coach you expect that players will have off nights and that others will make up the difference,” Bryant said. “It didn’t happen here, as no one had a good shooting game.”
Despite their struggles, the Warriors still had a chance to win the game late. Whittell trailed by two with 1:30 to play, but had three turnovers and missed three-pointer in its last four possessions — the loss snapped its 10-game winning streak and was its second to Virginia City in three contests this season.
“I told the players before the game that this one would be very low scoring and that we had to value every possession,” Bryant said. “We just had too many missed opportunities and there were too few adjustments on my part.
“I don’t think they are the better team, but they have two wins and we have one — it’s a great rivalry with the level of intensity and the different strategies that have been used in the three games.”
Guard Palmer Chaplin led Whittell with 12 points in the loss, forward Quinn Kixmiller finished with a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds and guard Colin Buchholz added nine points. The Warriors shot 3-for-16 from three-point range in the defeat — Bryant said the team settled for outside shots throughout the contest.
“After the game we discussed the things we could have — and should have — done. Our effort was there, just not the results,” Bryant said. “This loss is on me for not doing the things I should have done — I have been around this game too long to miss some of the things I did.”
For Virginia City, guards Clint Hess and Colt Hess combined for 27 points — Clint Hess’ game-high 16 included four three-pointers. The Muckers beat Whittell in last year’s regional championship game before the Warriors took the postseason rematch to win the Div. IV state title.
“The kids will bounce back — we lost zone last year and still won state,” Bryant said. “It’s all about putting this behind us but not forgetting the lessons.”
A night earlier, Whittell secured a berth in the state tournament by beating McDermitt (Nev.) 54-41 in the regional semifinals. Even in the crucial 14-point victory, the Warriors battled through a subpar shooting performance.
“There are really no excuses for it because teams in zone playoffs are there on an equal basis,” Bryant said. “We just seemed a little out of sync on shot selection, time and score.”
The Warriors led 22-14 at halftime and stayed in front after the break for a 13-point win over McDermitt (16-10), the second seed from Div. IV East League. The victory clinched a second straight state appearance for Whittell.
“We were in control the whole game, but we were kind of going through the motions — it was quietly efficient,” Bryant said.
Chaplin scored 21 points in the victory, and was one of two Warriors to score in double figures. Buchholz finished with 11 points and seven rebounds, forward Bryce Bronken added nine points and eight boards and Kixmiller had eight points and a team-high 10 rebounds.
“Those numbers may not seem that unusual, but with the percentages that went with them are not our usual numbers,” Bryant said. “It was a win so, we were not that concerned at the time.”
Whittell earned the second seed from the North, and will open the Div. IV state tournament Friday at Orleans Arena. In the state semifinals, the Warriors will face South No. 1 seed Spring Mountain (Las Vegas, Nev.) (22-4) at 4:15 p.m. — both teams met the same round last season, with Whittell winning 53-50.
In the other semifinal Friday, North top seed Virginia City will face South second seed Pahranagat Valley (Alamo, Nev.) (16-7) at 12:45 p.m. The winners of Friday’s semifinals will meet in the Div. IV state championship game, which tips off Saturday at 12:50 p.m.
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