Whittell Warriors fall to Spring Mountain in state 1A semifinals
Whittell fell behind early, rallied back, but couldn’t keep up with Spring Mountain late and suffered a season-ending 57-34 loss Friday, Feb. 23, in the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association’s Class 1A State Boys’ Basketball Championships at Lawlor Events Center in Reno.
The Warriors were down 11-3 after the first quarter and 25-14 at halftime before pulling within five points in the third quarter.
“We played hard but got beat by a better team,” said Warriors head coach Phil Bryant. “Their athleticism was much more than we experienced all year. We are quick in our league and quick in northern Nevada but we are not southern Nevada quick.”
Spring Mountain is from Las Vegas and gets different talent than most class 1A schools that draw from mainly rural areas.
“Most of the Spring Mountain players are ‘transfers’ from the large schools and I think that level of experience is a huge benefit for their development,” Bryant said. “They aren’t even really ‘transfers’ in the sense of what that means. They are placed there by the court system and they always put together a strong program with the athletes they get. They get players from all over Nevada. It is almost like a last chance scenario and they play hard with the opportunity they have to get back on track.”
Bryant said the Warriors turned the ball over too many times in one-on-one situations and lamented that they couldn’t take advantage of making four straight defensive stops after trimming the Spring Mountain lead to five. Spring Mountain eventually broke through and pulled away.
“It was a tough loss, especially for the seniors (Corey Huber, Connor Huber, Nic Buchholz, Genaro Mena, Troy Libert) but we pointed out that they took the floor 30 times this year and won 26 of those. We focused on the season’s success and not a one game loss. We do not measure our success in the terms of just wins and losses, but we know that’s what gets you in playoffs so we want to win as often as we can. But more importantly, we want our kids to compete with respect, character and integrity. It’s how we practice, how we travel, how we interact with opponents and officials and how we represent ourselves, our school and our community. In that respect, Whittell basketball will always be champions.”
Bryant was happy with the way Libert controlled the boards and changed shots and the way he stepped up in his senior season.
“He led us in rebounding and was the division’s best shot blocker,” Bryant said. “He really matured as a player this year and he took the loss particularly hard. He wished he could go back and start all over again as a freshman.”
It’s back to the gym for the Warriors and Bryant, who will solely focus on basketball next season after stepping down as football coach. He said he’s already got players requesting as much gym time as possible during the offseason.
The Warriors finished the season 26-4 and were second in the Northern League. They advanced to the state playoffs in four of the last five seasons, winning state titles in 2015-16 and 2013-14.
“I am very proud of our guys and some have said we overachieved, but I say we played to our potential,” Bryant said. “At Whittell we always expect to be in the mix for a title, not just playing games to fill a schedule. Expect the best and get the best and they gave their best; it just wasn’t always good enough but the effort was always there. I love these guys.”