Whittell girls come up short vs. Lovelock | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Whittell girls come up short vs. Lovelock

Jim Grant/Tahoe Daily Tribune Seniors Ariana Rodriguez, facing camera, and Whitney Gielow hug after the one point loss to Lovelock in the regional semi-final game on Friday in Winnemmuca.

By Jeremy Evans

Tribune staff writer

Although the evidence wasn’t always there to support his optimism, Whittell coach Nathan Tolbert thought all season long his Warriors could beat Lovelock.

The team’s first two opportunities came and passed in the regular season, when the Mustangs used early bursts to pull ahead and win both times. The third and final chance came on Friday morning in the Northern 2A Regional Tournament at the Winnemucca Indoor Events Center.

After Whittell scored the game’s first basket, Lovelock went on a 14-1 run to take a 14-3 lead. Tolbert was thinking he had seen this scenario before.

“All year, we’ve run pretty well and then they start to get up and we let down and let them blow us away,” Tolbert said. “We weren’t going to let that happen. We didn’t want the season to end. We weren’t going to give up.”

The Warriors did just that, battling back to take a 57-56 lead late in the fourth quarter before several unfortunate plays led to Lovelock eventually pulling out a 61-60 victory. Out of chances to beat the Mustangs, Tolbert could only congratulate the team he figured stood in his way of reaching the state tournament.

“We didn’t have enough to beat them,” Tolbert said. “Lovelock is the No. 2 team in the region. There’s no shame in losing to someone that has beaten us three times. The way we played makes me proud.”

With 44 seconds remaining, Whittell sophomore Jessica Woods grabbed an offensive rebound and scored on a putback to give Whittell a 57-56 lead, its first since it led 2-0 and the last one of the season.

The Mustangs’ Krystal Glass was fouled on the next possession and she knocked down two free throws to put Lovelock back up, 58-57. After the inbounds play, a held ball was called and the possession arrow gave the ball back to the Mustangs, who made of 1 of 2 free throws to grab a 59-57 lead. Then Lovelock’s Felicia Booth stole the inbounds pass and was fouled, allowing Lovelock to seal the game from the foul line.

Woods, who scored 13 of her team-high 20 points in the fourth quarter, nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to provide the final margin. Tolbert rushed out onto the court like his team had won, but was really equally proud of his team’s resiliency.

“Jessica took the shot and it drained,” Tolbert said. “I was so proud of the way they finished. To see them hit it at the buzzer, even though it wasn’t enough, to see them have the poise just to step up and play like that was incredible. But Lovelock had a bit of a cushion and was able to hit their free throws down the line.”

Glass and Booth combined for 44 of Lovelock’s points, with Glass contributing 28 of them.

On Saturday in the zone championship game, the Mustangs (21-5) won their second straight regional championship by beating Northern 2A regular-season champion Battle Mountain, 50-39. It was the Longhorns first loss to a division foe this season. Both teams still advanced to this week’s 2A state tournament.

Whitney Gielow scored 11 points, while both Katrina Kacirek and Tara Scaduto had 10 for Whittell (10-9), which had its first winning season in more than a decade. Tolbert, though, wanted to add a state tournament appearance to that list.

The Warriors lose Gielow, Scaduto and Ariana Rodriguez off this year’s roster, but next season return several talented players in Woods, Kacirek and Kelly Karmann. Naturally, Tolbert figures next year will be the year to beat Lovelock.

“This team has lots of things to happen in the future,” Tolbert said. “This team will never be replaced. We might have a more talented team (in the future), but I don’t think we’ll ever have a team that was as close knit as this one. Talent-wise, we’re still going to be great. I don’t know who are going to be our leaders.”

Lovelock boys advance to state as well

Two days after edging Whittell, the Lovelock boys’ basketball team became the Northern 2A Regional Tournament champions following a 66-60 win over Independence in the zone title game.

The Mustangs defeated the Warriors 65-56 in the first round last Thursday, then pummeled regular-season champion Hawthorne 61-36 in the zone semifinals to advance to the title game. Independence beat top seeded Rite of Passage in the semifinals.

Both Independence and Lovelock will represent the Northern 2A at this week’s state tournament in Las Vegas.

Tahoe Daily Tribune photographer Jim Grant contributed to this report.

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