Whittell girls b-ball splits with Excel Christian, Smith Valley
The Whittell girls basketball team kept itself in the chase for the playoffs with a split in consecutive days last week. The Warriors beat Excel Christian on the road Friday night before losing to Smith Valley at home the following afternoon — and currently sit two games outside the Div. IV West League’s top four.
“To make the playoffs, we’re going to need some help from other people and run the table,” Warriors head coach Tom Esposito said. “We have four teams that are beatable — we just have to work hard these next two weeks and we’ll see where we end up at.”
Last Friday, Whittell rode big second and third quarters to a 49-22 road victory over Excel Christian (2-12, 2-10 IV West). The Warriors turned a five-point lead at the end of the opening frame into a rout by outscoring ECHS 32-8 on either side of halftime.
“It was a good game — they played well,” Esposito said.
Whittell completed the season sweep of Excel Christian with offensive balance. Six players scored at least six points in the victory, led by the Kjer sisters — senior Kelsey and freshman Kaitlyn finished with nine points apiece.
“The key thing was Kaitlyn’s scoring — that was refreshing to see,” Esposito said. “She has had a little taste and a little time in there, and it’s helping out.”
Center Jordyn Becker, guard Ali Copsy and guard Samantha Forvilly each scored seven points against Excel Christian while forward Michelle Barnes added six. For ECHS, guard Jonee Shelton scored a game-high 13 points.
“We were pretty well-rounded — we had a great balance on scoring,” Esposito said.
Whittell returned home the following afternoon, where it lost 59-35 to visiting Smith Valley. A slow start coupled with a rough third quarter cost the Warriors against the second-place team in the Div. IV West League.
“We kept going and we kept pushing through — everybody was trying their hardest and nobody really threw in the flag early,” Esposito said.
The Warriors had a 5-4 lead midway through the first quarter before Smith Valley (20-2, 11-1) started rolling. The Bulldogs closed the frame with 16 straight points to take a 20-5 lead after the first eight minutes.
“The first few minutes were good — and then I couldn’t find the light switch,” Esposito said.
Forvilly opened the scoring in the second quarter with a three-pointer to start an even frame. Whittell came as close as 11 points, and eventually trailed 30-15 at halftime.
After the Warriors converted a layup at the start of the second half, Smith Valley went on a second run to put the game away. The Bulldogs went on a 12-0 run to stretch their lead to 25 points, and had a 51-20 advantage headed into the fourth quarter.
Whittell trailed by 30 midway through the fourth quarter before closing the game on an 8-0 run. The Warriors lost to Smith Valley by 29 in the teams’ first meeting on Jan. 9.
“Smith Valley is a pretty solid team — they’re a legit team and they beat us similarly the first time we played,” Esposito said.
Kelsey Kjer led Whittell with 12 points in the loss and Copsy added seven. The Warriors turned the ball over 36 times and struggled to rebound in Saturday’s defeat, both leading to points for Smith Valley.
“It’s a little tougher out of the zone, but by the third or fourth rebound we should be able to get position — if you give somebody that many chances they are going to score,” Esposito said. “We have to go back to the drawing board with our rebounding drills.”
Guard Mattie Johns led Smith Valley with a game-high 15 points, and was one of three Bulldogs in double figures. Guards Tania Covarrubias and Shawna Minder each added 10.
After the split, Whittell is 4-7 in league play with a 6-14 overall mark — and will add a forfeit win over Sage Ridge on Feb. 11. Including that win the Warriors currently sit tied for fifth in the Div. IV West League standings with Coleville, two games behind fourth-place Mineral County with four contests left in the regular season.
Whittell returns to action on the road Friday against Sage Ridge at 4:30 p.m. — the game will be played at Evelyn Mount Northeast Community Center in Reno, Nev. On Saturday, the Warriors host Mineral County at 2 p.m.
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