Whittell Lady Warriors beat rival VC, alone atop 1A West League
ZEPHYR COVE, Nev. — The Lady Warriors are in first place.
That’s no misprint or factual error. The remarkable program turnaround continues.
Whittell rallied Friday night to knock off its rival Virginia City 43-39 in overtime on the hardwood in Zephyr Cove, Nev., and is in sole possession of first place in the 1A West League.
The Warriors (11-5, 4-0 1A West League) are one win away from doubling last year’s win total with seven games left in the regular season and have already equaled last year’s league victories.
The last time the Lady Warriors challenged for a league title was in 2006-07 when they finished second.
“It was a great win for the girls as they got down right away but fought back to actually take the lead with under a minute to go in the game,” said Whittell head coach Phil Bryant.
The Warriors were down by seven, 17-10, after the first period, but allowed just 15 points over the next three quarters as the teams went to overtime tied at 32.
“We had to do something defensively to not let the game get away from us so we made some adjustments and held them to a single free throw in the second quarter,” Bryant said. “We were still down by one at halftime, but it allowed us to remain confident as we went in to the second half.”
The second half was close throughout. The Lady Warriors didn’t hit a high percentage of shots, but they made important baskets to stay within reach.
Madison Burch, who had not hit a shot since the first quarter, got open in crunch time for six points in the fourth. But she also fouled out late in the period so the Warriors had to pick up the slack in overtime for one the team’s best players.
The Warriors were ahead by one point late, but the Muckers converted a free throw to force an extra five minutes.
It was all Whittell in the extra frame with freshman Jessica Johnson scoring six points and Brianna Johns canning a big 3-pointer and that was all she wrote for Virginia City.
Whittell senior Anna White matched up against the Muckers top scorer after she had scored 10 early points and shut her down the rest of the way.
Kyla Rippet and Johns took care of the ball and handled the Muckers’ defensive press.
“Anna did a great job,” Bryant said. “Kyla Rippett and Brianna handled the press with some great passes from teammates and it actually took VC out of the press because of the way we went through it. All the girls stepped up and although our percentage wasn’t much better than what we had been shooting, we hit the shots when we had to.”
The Warriors play winless Sage Ridge (0-7, 0-3 West) Tuesday, Jan. 29, at home and that will finish the first half of league play.
They begin their last five league games Friday, Feb. 1, against Sierra Lutheran on their home court.
“This is a new experience for the girls being on top, so now they have to realize what it takes to stay there to make this work between coach and players,” Bryant said. “I’m sure there are times when they think I am pushing too hard but that’s what it takes to be a title contender. Besides I don’t know any other way to coach than to place high expectations and then work to meet them. All of us, me included, are learning how to make this work in our first year together. It is definitely a growing process.”