Whittell hoopsters struggle with attrition
Instead of heading into today’s league opener looking to hone an already stalwart hoop-making machine, Whittell boys’ basketball coach Brian Mehrer is looking to make replacements aimed at returning some of the power to a machine that recently lost a few horses.
It’s not something the coach wants to do, but it’s the situation and the circumstances of the times. It just so happens the league opener is against Incline, the Warriors’ biggest foe and league rival.
Last year, the rivalry intensified to new levels, culminating in fights that eventually prompted one student to bring a gun to school. The potential for violence prompted administrators to ban all spectators from attending the game except immediate family.
That isn’t likely to be the case this year, with a series of mishaps dragging the Warriors (1-8 overall) to a preseason low while the Highlanders (9-5 overall) have been enjoying a successful high near the top of the 2A Northern League.
The biggest blow for the Warriors is the loss of 6-foot-3 senior forward Alex Swearingen, one of the team’s leading scorers. Swearingen will not suit up due to disciplinary action. His status with the team for the rest of the year is also in question, Mehrer said.
Center Joe Ilk and and guard Ryan Greenstein, the two largest players on the team, are also missing from the lineup. Ilk suffers from a recurring dislocated shoulder, and is not expected to return for the rest of the season on advice from his doctor. Greenstein, a junior, has not attended practice for several weeks.
As a final blow, junior forward Tyson Frederick quit the team over winter break, leaving the coach with a paltry nine varsity players.
Whittell has some young players coming up to join tested seniors Jake Summers, Brian Jones, Nick Lowe and Matt Johnson.
Mehrer intends to bring up three junior varsity sophomores, adding to the two already seeing varsity playing time. Only Tommy Esquivel, a powerful young player who made impressive plays with the football team last fall, moved up as of Monday.
“Two more spots are going to depend on practice (Monday night),” said Mehrer, who has been battling an attrition rate far beyond the attrition that he’d seen at Douglas. “I’m not sure yet what I’m going to do yet … we’ll have to see how we can match up the best.”
Preceding the boys game, the Whittell girls will be seeking their third victory tonight in what appears to be an evenly matched contest on paper. The Warriors are 2-9 in the predivision play, compared to 3-8 for rival Incline.
Vikes try to slow Hatcher
Julian Hatcher has been a thorn in STHS coach Derek Allister’s side ever since the former Stephen F. Austin coach arrived from Texas more than two years ago.
The Colts’ high-scoring guard will have the Vikings’ attention when the teams meet in a key Sierra Division matchup tonight at 7 in Reno. Hatcher, who leads the Northern region with a 30-point-per game average, scored 42 and 29 points in a pair of Wooster victories over STHS last year.
“Julian Hatcher is a great player for them. They are a lot of fun to play because they are so good,” Allister said.
STHS senior center Curtis Johnson had a strong double-double — 23 points and 17 rebounds — when the Vikings lost to the Colts 65-55 last February.
The game will mark the Colts’ division opener, while the Vikings will try to even their division mark following a 66-59 defeat at Carson on Friday.
Meanwhile, the Viking girls will also face an imposing test of shutting down one of the area’s top players, 6-3 Brianne McGowan.
McGowan hit for 37 points as Wooster beat the Vikings 67-64 in a zone play-in game last February.
“She’s very, very talented and quite the challenge for us, especially since we’re short some girls,” said STHS coach Chris Proctor. “She’s pretty quick with her moves, but I would like them to learn about how to play her. There are not too many examples here (of true post players) to learn from and watch.”
STHS will welcome back two players who were suspended for breaking team rules. Seven other varsity players will remain suspended for disciplinary reasons.
They will likely miss the Reno game on Friday at STHS as well.
— Tribune Sports Editor Steve Yingling contributed to this story.
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