Whittell girls b-ball stuns Pyramid Lake 57-53, delivers biggest victory of season
ZEPHYR COVE — The Whittell girls basketball team turned in its best performance of the 2015-16 season Tuesday, Feb. 9 — and it led to the team’s biggest win of the campaign. The Warriors knocked off Pyramid Lake at home 57-53, delivering a complete performance to take down one of the top teams in Div. IV West League.
“It was a big win,” Warriors coach Tom Esposito said. “We knew we could compete with them and the girls came through.”
Whittell (8-16, 6-8 IV West) trailed 27-22 after an even first half, and turned the game around quickly after the break. The Warriors opened the third quarter on a 9-0 run capped by three straight baskets from Kelsey Kjer — a jumper from the senior with 6:48 left in the frame put the hosts ahead 31-27.
“Their tempo slowed us down, which was a good thing — it helped us take care of the ball,” Esposito said. “We kept it that way, and we decided to put pressure on them.”
Later in the frame, Whittell went in front 38-36 on a pair of free throws from senior Jordyn Becker — but the Warriors trailed by the time the third-quarter buzzer sounded. Patricia Christy converted a pair of fast-break layups in the last 48 seconds to put Pyramid Lake (14-8, 10-4) ahead by two.
As a back-and-forth fourth quarter came to a close, the Warriors trailed by one point and badly needed a basket — and one of their youngest players obliged. Freshman Brianna Johns took a pass at the top of the key and hit a 3-pointer that put Whittell ahead 53-51 with 1:17 to play.
“For a freshman to have that much poise — she’s one of our key players,” Esposito said. “She has a quarter of the experience of some of our other players on the court, but she’s athletic, she’s competitive, and she thinks about it.”
In the last 50 seconds, the Warriors made four free throws to ice the victory. Becker’s pair from the charity stripe with 25 seconds left sealed Whittell’s win over the playoff-bound Lakers.
“It could have went either way,” Esposito said. “To hold onto it was big.”
Kjer scored a game-high 18 points, and was one of three Warriors in double figures. The senior connected on eight field-goal attempts in the victory.
“Kelsey is all-around now and she’s got a complete game,” Esposito said. “She drives, she draws fouls and she can shoot inside.”
Johns and junior Samantha Forvilly each finished with 14 as part of a balanced attack. Tuesday night’s offensive performance was by far the Warriors’ best of the season.
“This is the first time we went in there as a team,” Esposito said. “Everybody wasn’t divided, and that was a key to it.”
For Pyramid Lake, Christy led the way with 15 points, Jakoby Stump scored 13 and Savannah Hinkey added 10. Whittell kept the 6-foot-2-inch Stump out of rhythm by double-teaming her for the entire game.
“Last time we just fronted her or got behind her — tonight we put two on her,” Esposito said. “We had the middle person drop off all the time.”
Whittell has had its share of ups and downs this season, and Tuesday’s game showed how far the team has come since the beginning of the campaign. The Warriors delivered the consistent performance they had been seeking all year, even with the postseason already out of reach.
The Warriors return to action at home Friday, Feb. 12, against Sierra Lutheran — tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. Whittell concludes its season Saturday, Feb. 13, at Virginia City.
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