Whittell preparing for Division playoff
With only three victories this year, Whittell High’s boys basketball team will defend its division title Friday in Nevada’s Northern 2A Division playoff game against Lovelock at 7:30 p.m.
The Warriors, the reigning 2A Northern Division champs, plan to put their 1-7, 3-21 records behind them and concentrate on overcoming the slim three-point margin (57-54) that Lovelock left Zephyr Cove with Feb. 1.
Whittell junior Brian Jones is excited by the challenge.
“We almost got Lovelock last time and we think we can get ’em this time,” said the 6-foot-3 forward.
Jones said the Warriors plan to stick to what’s been working. Ryan Salomon scored a career-high 24 points against Tonopah on Tuesday, junior Nestor Flores scored 17 and Jake Summers tossed in 15.
“Ryan can really dominate with some post play. If Nestor and Jake are hitting, we can hang in there with these guys,” he said.
And the team may be in its best shape all year.
The Warriors had shared solo 2A division victories with Tonopah until Tuesday, when they thumped the Muckers 57-44 in a fourth-seed division playoff game in Hawthorne. The victory secured their spot in the four-bracket division tournament and re-opened the window for state contention.
“We’re ready,” said Whittell coach Don Amaral. “We played our best game of the year against Tonopah. We made some adjustments. We’re ready to go at them.”
But the Mustangs, finishing the year at 7-1 and15-10, pose a major challenge, especially as the Warriors attempt to beat them away from home.
“Too many transition points hurt us in the last game. We didn’t get back on defense,” Jones said of the last time the two teams met.
To gear up, the team has been practicing every day after school.
“We had a good practice,” said Amaral of the light practice Thursday.
He said important components of their attack will be to screen the Mustangs off the boards, cut down their transitional points and free up their guards.
“Key against this team,” Amaral said, “is freeing Ryan (Salomon) up underneath. That will take some pressure off our guards.”
Salomon, a 6-4 senior, has been one of the team’s strongest offensive players.
Getting the team off to a strong start also is important, Amaral said.
“Both times (the Mustangs) blew us out early in the first half,” he said.
Last year, the Warriors went into the division playoffs as the third seed they won the division title and finished third in state.
“We’re gonna go in there one game at a time and see what we can do,” Amaral said.
The winners of the semifinals will meet Saturday at 2 p.m. to compete for the division championship and a position in the state tournament.