Warriors secure state crown
The Whittell boys basketball team defeated Word of Life Christian Academy (Las Vegas), 53-48, in the Division IV State Tournament championship game Saturday at Lawlor Events Center in Reno.
Whittell rode strong defense and timely offense to capture its second state title in three seasons.
“It’s a state championship, and that was our goal from the beginning of the year,” Warriors senior Palmer Chaplin said. “We did it. There’s a lot of emotion.”
In a battle of top seeds from the North and South, neither team could separate itself early on. Whittell (27-2) led 13-10 at the end of a back-and-forth first quarter after Chaplin hit a 3-pointer with 1:35 left in the frame.
Word of Life (17-4) scored the first seven points of the second quarter to jump in front 17-13 and took a five-point lead on back-to-back baskets from Trent McCall late in the first half. Whittell closed the second quarter with six straight points, capped by senior Quinn Kixmiller’s contested jumper as the horn sounded for a 29-28 lead at halftime.
It also provided the Warriors with momentum.
Whittell led by at least three points for the entire fourth quarter while closing out the Soaring Eagles. With 5:00 to play, Chaplin hit a transition 3-pointer that put Whittell ahead 46-38 — a lead that shrunk to 48-45 before the Warriors took advantage of an intentional foul with 1:11 left. Kixmiller made one of two free throws and junior Dismas Womack scored on the ensuing inbound play to put Whittell ahead 51-45.
Following a Golden Eagles missed 3-pointer on the next possession, Warriors senior Colin Buchholz hit a jumper that made it 53-45 with 34 seconds left.
Chaplin led all scorers with 22 points, including all four of Whittell’s 3-pointers. Buchholz finished with 10 points.
“They’re a team that is really athletic and really great, but you just can’t beat the fundamentals when you work hard with them,” Kixmiller said.
Whittell had three goals at the beginning of the season — win a league championship, regional title and state crown.
“That was championship basketball tonight,” Buchholz said. “We were off and on, but we never lost hope in ourselves, we trusted in each other, and we were able to get it done.”
In four seasons under Bryant, the Warriors have won two state championships, a regional title and three league crowns with a combined 90-22 record. Chaplin, Buchholz, Kixmiller and Andy Delgado have been a part of all four of those teams.
“It’s absolutely great and I couldn’t be happier,” Bryant said. “We’re just going to keep rolling — we’re already planning on how to defend the title next year.”