Whittell girls b-ball splits pair, beats Excel Christian for first league win
The Whittell girls basketball team is on the board in Div. IV West League play. The Warriors split a pair of contests in consecutive days last weekend, and picked up their first league win with a 46-13 victory at Excel Christian on Friday, Jan. 8.
On Friday, Whittell (3-8, 1-2 IV West) rode a fast start on the road to its first league victory. The Warriors beat Excel Christian by 33 points, fueled by a 17-0 advantage after the first quarter.
“We won pretty convincingly,” Warriors coach Tom Esposito said. “That was a good one.”
Whittell led 22-4 at halftime after pitching a shutout in the opening frame, and continued to roll after the break. The Warriors’ 33-point victory was their most decisive of the season — their previous two wins both came against Greenville (Calif.) in December.
“We worked on our full-court press and were able to run some offense,” Esposito said. “We shut them down pretty good with our defense.”
Junior Samantha Forvilly led Whittell with 14 points on Friday night, outscoring Excel Christian singlehandedly. Senior Kelsey Kjer and junior Michelle Barnes each scored seven while freshman Shaylie Rippet added six.
“Our press did really well,” Esposito said. “We had a lot of steals and turned defense into offense — we were able to put it back.”
The following afternoon, Saturday, Jan. 9, Whittell fell at home to defending league champion and Div. IV state finalist Smith Valley 71-29. The Warriors stayed with the Bulldogs for a quarter and a half but were ultimately unable to keep pace as the visitors remained unbeaten in league play.
“I’m satisfied with this against a state-level team,” Esposito said. “Hopefully we can build off this when we play lesser teams — this was definitely a step forward.”
In the last minute of the opening frame, Forvilly hit a 3-pointer that cut Smith Valley’s lead to 14-7. Back-to-back baskets from Barnes and sophomore Jannia Castro midway through the second quarter made it 18-11, but the Warriors wouldn’t score for the rest of the half as the Bulldogs began to pull away.
“We have to read the defense and take what they give us,” Esposito said. “There’s no magical play.”
Smith Valley scored the last 10 points of the first half to take a 28-11 lead into the break, and nearly matched that total in the third quarter to turn the game into a rout. The Bulldogs doubled up Whittell with 24 points in the third, and had a commanding 52-23 lead headed into the fourth quarter.
Whittell couldn’t slow Smith Valley’s transition offense after halftime and struggled with rebounding on the way to a 42-point defeat. The Bulldogs have won five straight games to start league play by an average of 41.4 points.
Forvilly led the Warriors with nine points in the loss, Kjer scored eight and freshman Brianna Johns added five. For Smith Valley, senior Kellie Rogaczewksi scored a game-high 22 points, senior Kelly O’Keefe finished with 15 and senior Tania Covarrubias had 14.
“Hopefully we kept progressing,” Esposito said. “Win or lose, let’s just progress and keep learning the game.”
Whittell returned to action at home Tuesday, Jan. 12, in a league game against Coleville. The Warriors have a pair of league contests this weekend, hosting Mineral County on Friday, Jan. 14, at 6 p.m., before traveling to play Sage Ridge on Saturday, Jan. 15.
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