Whittell girls b-ball closes out season with close defeats
ZEPHYR COVE — The Whittell girls basketball team suffered a pair of single-digit defeats last weekend to end its 2014-15 season. The Warriors fell to Virginia City at home last Friday night before losing at Sierra Lutheran the following day in their season finale.
In its last home game of the season, Whittell mounted a big comeback against Virginia City before eventually falling short. The Warriors erased a double-digit first half deficit and went ahead of the Muckers early in the fourth quarter, but ultimately couldn’t hang on in a 45-37 loss.
“That was one of the better games the girls have played all season — they played good ball, but out bench was lean,” Warriors head coach Tom Esposito said. “Without a bench, it made it difficult.”
Whittell fell in a 10-0 hole to start the game, and went more than four minutes without a basket. A three-pointer from guard Samantha Forvilly with 3:31 left in the opening frame got the Warriors on the board — but they still trailed Virginia City 14-6 after the first quarter.
The Muckers opened up a 12-point lead early in the second quarter, and had an 18-9 advantage when they began am offensive stall tactic. Virginia City slowed its play to a crawl for last five minutes of the half, a strategy that allowed Whittell to get back in the game.
“Anytime they slowed it down was fine with us — it gave us a little rest without spending timeouts,” Esposito said. “The crowd was kind of anxious, but I didn’t mind the slow down.”
The Warriors closed the second quarter on a 9-4 run, and went into halftime down by seven. When the game sped back up in the third quarter, Whittell used pressure defense to spark a rally.
Forvilly opened the second-half scoring with a three-pointer to start a 12-4 run that put Whittell in front. Guard Ali Copsy ended the run with a steal and layup that gave the Warriors a 27-26 lead with 2:39 left in the third quarter.
Whittell trailed by three later on in the frame, but scored five straight points to reclaim the lead. A pair of free throws from guard Kelsey Kjer made it 32-30 with 24 seconds left — on the next possession, Virginia City forward Niki D’Agostino hit an inside shot to tie the game headed into the fourth quarter.
Thirty-seven seconds into the fourth, Copsy made a transition layup to put the Warriors ahead 34-32. But after the Muckers tied the game a minute later, Whittell couldn’t get back in front.
Virginia City took a 35-34 lead on a free throw with 5:36 to play, then methodically pulled away from Whittell. The Muckers scored six straight points over a four-minute span — a stretch that included 55 seconds of possession with only one pass — to secure the victory.
“When they did go to that stall, staying back was the idea — once we did attack with man-to-man, we wore out pretty quickly,” Esposito said.
Guard Daria Sharon led Whittell with 14 points in the loss — including three three-pointers. Forvilly scored eight points, Copsy added seven and Kjer had six.
For the Muckers, guard Ku’ulei Haupu scored a game-high 15 points and D’Agostino added 10. Virginia City completed a sweep of the Warriors with the win — VCHS took the first meeting between the teams 53-30.
The next afternoon, the Warriors’ season ended with a 26-21 loss at Sierra Lutheran. A rough second quarter offensively ultimately cost Whittell in its season finale.
Whittell trailed 6-5 after the first quarter, and found itself behind by seven at halftime after a two-point second quarter. The Warriors matched the Falcons after halftime but couldn’t take the lead — 26 points is the least they allowed in a loss the entire season.
“We expended all our energy catching up,” Esposito said. “We were able to catch up, but we couldn’t finish it.”
Whittell ended its 2014-15 campaign with an 8-16 overall record and a 6-10 mark in Div. IV West League play. The Warriors were 4-4 after the first round of league, and took sixth in the standings after winning two games in the second half.
“I was happy with what they learned throughout the season,” Esposito said. “We could have done a little better, and that was probably my fault because I didn’t push them as hard as I could have.”
The Warriors graduate only three seniors from this year’s team — guards Gisselle Benitez, Keatzia Morales and Aisha Ceron. Anchored by a core of young players, Whittell has a foundation in place for future success.
“There’s talent — we’ve got speed, we can shoot and we have the knowledge of the game,” Esposito said. “I think next year is going to be a great year for them — it will be if they do in with a good attitude, practice hard and start games strong.”
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