Whitney defends home court, advances in hoops playoffs

By: Brett Ransford, Special to The Placer Herald
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Using heavy pressure from the outset and taking advantage of an early double-digit lead, the Whitney High boys basketball team beat Center 55-41 Wednesday night in the opening round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs. Coming into the playoffs the Wildcats were 20-7 overall, 10-2 in league and had won five of their last six games, earning a home playoff opener as the No. 5 seed in the 16-team tourney field. The Wildcats sent their starting five at Center almost the entire contest, as starters Derek Knutty, Cody Borst, Jordan Wilson, Eric Gee, and Brenden McCue played almost every minute. Aside from one substitution in the first half, the starting five outplayed Center, the tourney’s No. 12 seed, up until the last minute of play. Knutty had a pair of blocks and a 10-point scoring night. His presence under the basket spoiled any chances for Center to establish low-post play. Borst and Wilson shared scoring honors with 14 points each. Borst dropped in seven of his team’s 13 points in the first quarter, as the Wildcats first-quarter output exceeded the Center first-half total. While Whitney was busy holding Center to just four points in the second period, Eric Gee was shooting lights out, as he scored seven points in the second stanza. Whitney was clicking on all cylinders and if it weren’t for a few fouls and turnovers the game would have been even more dominating. The only time Whitney was outscored was by one point in the fourth quarter when the game was almost out of reach. Coach Bryce Newell enjoyed the outstanding play from his team and appreciated the effort of his first unit. “I rode them a little bit and I don’t usually like to do that, but every game’s different,” said Newell. “It’s all about matchups and I rode some specific matchups, but in the next game that may change because we have a deep bench and a really good bench.” “I just wanted them to play,” Newell added. “Play freely, play together, move the ball, play unselfish and when we do that we’re really hard to guard. When we get in a rhythm like [tonight] then we’re pretty good.” Whitney was up by as many as 19 points at one point in the third quarter. The Wildcats fought against a couple of runs in the third and fourth, but the Wildcats never allowed the game to even reach a single-digit margin. Whitney extended its season with this playoff win in front of its home crowd. Thanks to an upset win by St. Mary’s (Stockton), the No. 13 seed who shocked No. 4 Sierra (Manteca) Wednesday night, the Wildcats faithful will get one more chance to see their squad on its home court as the Wildcats host St. Mary’s in a second-round game at 7 p.m. Friday night.