Whittell pushes way into postseason, run starts this week
ZEPHYR COVE, Nev. — Whittell got one of its key players back from injury, got a massive performance off the bench and has pushed its way into the basketball playoffs.
The Warriors won three straight games before losing their season finale Friday night and will be the No. 4 seed from the 1A West League.
The Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association Class 1A Central-West Basketball Championships began Thursday at Mineral County High School in Hawthorne with the title game on Saturday.
The Warriors (5-5) lost a chance at the No. 3 seed Friday with a 57-44 loss at Sage Ridge (6-4) in Reno.
“We were playing shorthanded again and the lack of depth really hurt us,” said Whittell head coach Phil Bryant. “We were close all the way but just had trouble scoring. We shot a horrendous 15 for 69 on the night and just couldn’t get anything to fall. The good thing was that we had already qualified so it was just going to be whether we went in as a 2, 3 or 4.”
The loss made the Warriors the final qualifying seed and they will have a difficult road to qualify for state. They play Central League champion, and tournament host, Mineral County at 8 p.m. Thursday.
“We will be matched up with Mineral County and they are a tall, tough team,” Bryant said. “We struggle with height at times but we are under no pressure because no one expects us to win. We are hoping to send out our seniors, Dylan (Wade) and Zach (Johns) with a great effort in zone. They have been a big part of the program for four years.”
The Warriors earned three straight wins — 61-48 over Pyramid Lake on Feb. 4, 54-31 over Excel Christian on Feb. 7 and 63-47 over rival, and No. 2 seed, Virginia City 63-47 on Feb. 11 — to put themselves in the mix and could’ve earned as high as a No. 2 seed heading into the final weekend if the results fell just right.
Against Pyramid, Wade led the way with 24 points, including six 3-pointers.
Johns followed up with 18 points and the balance came from Malachi Womack, Troy Dingman, Kyle Davis and Freshman James Johnson.
Wade and Johns again excelled for the Warriors against Excel Christian.
Johns had 19 points and Wade added 17 and six others added the balance of points.
Whittell earned its biggest win of the stretch against the Muckers (6-4), making it a season sweep.
Johnson came off the bench with a red-hot shooting touch. He drilled five 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 17 points.
Wade had 15 and Johns added 14.
“In our recent wins, Davis has turned up big as a rebounder,” Bryant said. “Johnson has filled that same role as has the reliable Malachi Womack. We have struggled throughout the year with key players being in foul trouble, inability to finish at the rim and closing out games strong. We are not a powerhouse with those difficulties but we are capable on any night. A huge reason for our success is the availability of assistant coach Matt Bryant who has a keen eye for adjustments and has made all the right moves.”
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