Whittell boys b-ball rides defense to sweep of Smith Valley, Excel Christian, remains unbeaten in league
ZEPHYR COVE — The Whittell boys basketball team is struggling with its shooting as the new year begins. But that hasn’t stopped the Warriors from continuing an unbeaten start in Div. IV West League play.
The Warriors routed Smith Valley 74-15 at home Saturday, Jan. 9, using full-court defense to deliver an emphatic win. The victory was the Whittell’s second in as many days, and improved its league record to 3-0.
“We did our stuff, we continued to play and we tried to get everybody in — but we wanted to sustain that with scoring and defense,” Warriors coach Phil Bryant said. “It was hard for them to get anywhere or do anything.”
Whittell (9-2, 3-0 IV West) trailed 40 seconds into Saturday’s game, but answered with 13 straight points to quickly take control. The Warriors’ full-court defense pressured Smith Valley into 11 turnovers in the first quarter — and forced 38 for the entire game.
“We wanted to really focus on defense tonight,” Bryant said. “Virginia City had just played them and beat them 51-26, so that gave us a yardstick.”
The Warriors broke the game open with 14 straight points in the second quarter, pushing their lead to 33-9 on a fast break layup from senior Colin Buchholz with 3:40 left. That stretch included three transition baskets 25 seconds apart, the last two off of steals in Smith Valley’s end of the court.
Whittell opened up a 41-11 lead by halftime, and scored the first 13 points of the third quarter. A running clock went into effect during that stretch as the Warriors rolled to a 59-point win — their biggest of the season.
“You have to like the defensive effort,” Bryant said. “If you can defend hard, you can compete against anybody.”
Senior Quinn Kixmiller led a balanced Whittell attack Saturday, scoring 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting. Kixmiller also grabbed 12 rebounds to record his sixth double-double of the season.
“Quinn is tough to handle with his inside game,” Bryant said. “He’s a load in there and he does a good job.”
Senior Palmer Chaplin also scored 15 points to go along with nine assists and five steals. Buchholz finished with 13 points and four steals, sophomore Corey Huber scored eight points, sophomore Troy Libert had six points and eight rebounds, and junior Dismas Womack added six points and eight rebounds.
In the win, the Warriors shot 41 percent from the field. That number included shooting 21 percent from 3-point range (7-for-33), below their season average of 37 percent.
“We’re shooting it too quick,” Bryant said. “We’re coming down and the guards are either shooting it off the dribble or off the first pass — in the second half, our top seven players were taking it more off of ball movement.”
Whittell delivered its best defensive performance of the season Saturday while holding Smith Valley (2-13, 1-3) to its second-lowest total. Sophomore Alfanzo Reyes led the Bulldogs with six points and Yoni Covarrubias added five.
On Friday, Jan. 8, Whittell rolled to a 62-34 win at Excel Christian. The Warriors led 19-6 after the opening frame and opened up a 21-point advantage by halftime en route to a comfortable victory.
“Our defensive effort was good again,” Bryant said. “They had a couple long, athletic type kids.”
Four Warriors players accounted for 60 total points in Friday’s win, led by Buchholz. The senior scored a game-high 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting — including three 3-pointers.
Kixmiller finished with a double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds against Excel Christian, while Chaplin had 13 points, 11 assists and four steals. Womack scored nine points and pulled down 10 rebounds.
“It was the same concern — we didn’t shoot it well,” Bryant said. “We’re not going to be able to get layups and transition buckets against the good teams as easily as we have the past couple nights.”
For Excel Christian (2-6, 1-2), senior Noah Dahir led the way with 15 points. Whittell held the Warriors to single-digit scoring in three of four quarters in the win.
Whittell returned to action at home Tuesday, Jan. 12 against Coleville. The Warriors host North Valleys (Reno, Nev.) in a nonleague game Wednesday, Jan. 13 — tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
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