Whittell faces week fit for ‘Road Warriors’
The Northern Nevada 3A boys basketball zone tournament may begin in less than 10 days, but Whittell’s road to the postseason begins today in the outskirts of Reno.
The Warriors, weather permitting, will travel to Bishop Manogue today to take on the Miners in a 7:30 game filled with playoff implications. If the Warriors can avenge a Feb. 9 63-50 loss to Manogue, they will move one step closer to their first playoff appearance since the 1994-95 season.
“We’re pretty excited to be in the chase,” said Warriors coach Steve Maltase, in his fourth season at the Zephyr Cove school. “If we win the rest of our games, we’ll definitely be in the playoffs.”
The Warriors have three games remaining in the regular season, including a Friday road contest against Hawthorne and a home date Saturday against Lovelock.
“We’re going to try to win all three, but we know if we don’t win two out of three, it’s probably over for us,” said Maltase, whose squad has posted wins in each of its past four games. “I’d like to start (today) with a win against Manogue to release a little pressure.”
The results of the regular season’s last week will likely break the logjam that currently grips the Division II standings. Bishop Manogue (20-4 overall) occupies the top spot with an 8-2 league record. Incline (17-5 overall) also has an 8-2 record, losing to Manogue, 51-48, on Feb. 2. Hawthorne (16-6) and Dayton (17-7) share third place with 6-4 league marks, with the Warriors a half-game behind both schools with a 5-4 record.
A Whittell win over the Miners today, coupled with a Dayton loss to Incline, would vault the Warriors into a third-place tie with Hawthorne and put the Dust Devils in fifth place.
“We’re pretty confident as a team. Very confident,” said Whittell center James Putnam, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder. “We keep talking about what we’re going to accomplish. Talk is cheap unless we actually do it, though.”
A loss against Manogue would not mathematically eliminate the Warriors, but it would make their postseason chances considerably harder. They would need some help (read: losses) from Hawthorne or Dayton to make the p[layoffs.
“We’re saying it’s a must-win situation,” said Putnam, one of five seniors on the Warriors. “We’re not going to give up if we lose, but we’re not even going to talk about losing at this point.”
The Warriors (10-11 overall) last played a game on Feb. 3, defeating Yerington at home in a 62-45 triumph. Whittell would have played this weekend, but Saturday’s game against Lovelock was postponed because of the death of a relative of the opponent’s coach. The game has been rescheduled for Saturday. Maltase hopes the team’s six-day layoff does not affect their momentum.
“Hopefully, it doesn’t turn out to be an issue,” said Maltase, whose squad has rallied from an 0-3 division start to its current 5-4 mark. “We were on a roll. Let’s hope we can keep it going.”
Putnam believes the unanticipated break may even be a blessing in disguise.
“I feel really confident, comfortable, healthy and ready to play,” said Putnam, who finished with eight points on 3-of-17 shooting against the Miners in January. “I know we haven’t had a game in a week, but we’ve had time to practice and work on some things.”
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