Whittell boys b-ball rolls past Excel Christian, Smith Valley
The Whittell boys basketball team has refocused since its first league loss of the season — and it showed on the court last weekend. The Warriors rolled to businesslike victories over Excel Christian and Smith Valley in a two-day span to stay within reach of the top spot in the Div. IV West League.
“These kids are on a mission right now,” Warriors coach Phil Bryant said. “They know that they didn’t play well against Virginia City, and they feel that their only shot at winning the league with the tiebreakers is to take care of business as we go through.”
Last Friday, Whittell overcame cold shooting in the first half in a 68-48 victory over Excel Christian (10-9, 6-5 IV West). The Warriors led 26-19 at halftime, and stretched that advantage throughout the second half on the way to a 20-point win.
“We didn’t shoot well in the first half, but we were really efficient in the second half,” Bryant said. “We missed layups, we missed 5-footers, we missed midrange shots, we missed threes — anything we could put up, we missed.
“The defense was still good in the first half — we held ourselves offensively.”
Guard Palmer Chaplin led Whittell with 25 points in Friday night’s win — the junior did all his scoring in the last three quarters and had 20 points after halftime. Three Warriors scored in double figures in the win — forward Bryce Bronken finished with 17 points and guard Colin Buchholz added 15.
For Excel Christian, guard Josh Behmyer-Smith scored 17 points and forward Noah Dahir added 11. Whittell completed a season sweep with the win — the Warriors beat ECHS by 30 points in the teams’ first meeting on Jan. 10.
The following afternoon, the Warriors started fast and blew past Smith Valley 66-25. Whittell notched its third straight win in convincing fashion — the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game was played with a running clock.
“It was very businesslike,” Bryant said. “It wasn’t outstanding and it wasn’t poor — it was just business.”
The Warriors scored the first 13 points of the game, and led 25-4 after the first quarter. By halftime, Whittell had a 36-point lead over Smith Valley (4-18, 4-7) on the way to a lopsided win.
“We modified our press a little bit, started with a zone then went to more of a run-and-jump,” Bryant said. “I’m happy with how things went — the energy level was good.”
Chaplin led Whittell with a game-high 19 points against the Bulldogs, including 15 in the first half. Buchholz scored 15 for the second straight game while guard Osvaldo Reyes-Lucero, guard Jake Sharp, guard Corey Huber and forward Bryce Bronken added six apiece.
“It was good for the young guys to get a lot of time today,” Bryant said. “They have to be active role players and fill spots next year with the guys we’re losing.”
With the wins, Whittell improved to 10-1 in Div. IV West League play and 18-2 overall. The Warriors are a half-game game behind league-leading Virginia City (19-2, 10-0) with four games left in the regular season — Whittell hosts the Muckers on Feb. 13.
“We changed our practice routine a little bit — we’re on the court about an hour and 15 minutes each day maximum, we’ve upped the tempo and split the JV and varsity,” Bryant said. “It has worked out well.”
Whittell returns to action Friday night on the road against Sage Ridge at 6 p.m. — the game will be played at Evelyn Mount Northeast Community Center in Reno, Nev. On Saturday, the Warriors host Mineral County at 3:30 p.m.
“We just have to keep building and building,” Bryant said. “We’re trying to get better still and we’ll be playing our best basketball over the next couple weeks.”
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