Whittell lake classic 12-15
It’s easy to see why Whittell bills its boys basketball tournament as the Battle of the Lake, with the Sourth Shore looking to dunk the North from the first round.
“We’re excited to play at home and host our own tournament,” said Whittell head coach Steve Maltase, whose team opens at 7:15 p.m. tonight against North Tahoe. “It’s going to be competitive, for sure.”
There’s little doubt about that. The host Warriors (1-5 overall) open their home tournament with a team that should provide a good measuring stick to see whether Whittell improved at the Portola (Calif.) tournament over the past weekend. In fact, the visiting Lakers have nearly the opposite overall record, at 4-1 overall.
The one opponent Whittell and North Tahoe have had in common is Mariposa, which blew ot Whittell Dec. 4, and found itself on the receiving end of a North Tahoe blowout. North Tahoe is a solid team both inside – with 6-2 leading scorer Aaron Narlock and either 6-4 Matt Acton or 6-5 Dane Hanson up front – and outside – where coach Chris Park’s three-guard alignment pays off.
Whittell’s problem has been offense. While Maltase’s trademark tough defense has been solid every game, the Warriors haven’t been able to score consistently.
“I think we’re a pretty good defensive team, but offensively, we need to come together,” said Warriors senior Avery Norman, a swingman and one of the players Maltase has looked to for offense.
“It’ll probably just take a while,” Norman said. “The more games we play, the more confidence we’ll get with the situations and stuff.”
While the first game will be competitive indeed, the road doesn’t get much easier for Whittell. The Warriors follow the meeting
“There are no cupcakes on our schedule,” Maltase said.
In fact, Thursday’s matchup is particularly compelling: Whittell draws a rematch with 5-2 Truckee, which beat Whittell by five on Dec. 3. That game started Whittell on its five-game losing skid after the Warriors won their Dec. 1 opener at Rite of Passage.
“I feel that we kind of snuck up on them, but this time they’re ready,” said senior forward Todd Echan, who was a big factor in holding Mark Logan, Truckee’s best player, to just 10 points (16 below his average) in the first meeting.
“Nobody’s going to play us man-to-man with Logan,” said Truckee coach Mike Gray.
Indeed, Logan presents match-up problems because Gray uses the 6-5 senior as a swingman to showcase his complete floor game. Gray attributed Logan’s tough time to factors in Logan’s mind instead of Whittell’s zone defense.
“He had a really bad game,” Gray said. “I’m not sure what it was. His shot wasn’t going in, and then he started thinking about his shot and of course, you’re not going to hit it (then).”
Still, Whittell kept the game within five. Gray is in his first year as Truckee’s coach, and the players still are getting used to each other and their coach’s run-and-gun style.
“I think we’ve got a pretty good chance,” Norman said. “We know we can play with them.”
Another factor that could help Whittell is that the Warriors finally have 12 players eligible and suiting up. Ineligibilites and absences forced the Warriors to use a nine-man rotation against Rite of Passage, and the Warriors missed Echan’s inside presence in a two-point loss to Quincy when the senior was taking the SAT. Echan still finished with 31 points in the tournament despite playing just two games.
The Warriors also hope to draw from their home-court advantage. After all, the Battle of the Lake is taking place on the South Shore.
“Of course, we have fans supporting us and we practice on our rims so we’re used to our own floor,” Echan said.
“I just hope our team steps it up and we pull off a few wins,” Echan said.
Whittell plays all three of its games in the Battle of the Lake at 7:15 p.m.: The Warriors take on North Tahoe on Wednesday, Truckee on Thursday, and Incline on Friday.
Whittell is searching for its graduates for an alumni game Dec. 21. For more information, call head basketball coach Steve Maltase at (775) 588-2446.
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