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Shortage of players not helping Wildcats

By: Cecil Conley, Sports Editor
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Plenty of good seats are available at Whitney High School’s boys basketball games. There are even a few open on the Wildcats’ bench, and those chairs are far more comfortable than a bleacher. Coach Matt Rickabaugh would probably appreciate the company. With just nine players and only seven healthy, Rickabaugh does not have to look too far when it is time to make a substitution. Rickabaugh hopes to have eight players ready to go Friday night when Whitney tips off its first Capital Athletic League season by hosting Mira Loma. There is a slight chance he could have all nine. Senior Garett Rodriguez has been out for weeks with a sprained ankle. Matt Gruber, a 6-foot-2 forward, joined the 6-3 Rodriguez on Whitney’s disabled list after recently sustaining a foot injury. Their absences have left the Wildcats (9-8) vulnerable against opponents with size. Evan Orrick, a 6-3 junior, has been spending time in the post even though he is at his best on the perimeter. “Evan doesn’t really have the physicality to defend in the post,” Rickabaugh explained. “He can do more for us defensively on the perimeter. He can smother someone because he’s longer.” The loss of Gruber, who has been nicknamed “Windex” for his rebounding, has prevented Rickabaugh from running perimeter plays for 6-3 senior center Michael Buckhalter to create mismatches. Buckhalter and 5-11 sophomore Nolan Eger are Whitney’s two top scorers. Eger brings a spark off the bench, Rickabaugh said, and is working on his defense as most young players have to do. Defense is a concern for Rickabaugh. Whitney fell short to its goal of allowing 10 or fewer points each quarter in last Friday’s 82-58 loss to Colfax. His team has yielded 70-plus points in three games. “We didn’t bring it,” Rickabaugh said. “Colfax isn’t 24 points better than us when we play our game.” Rocklin’s boys will host Del Oro on Thursday in the Sierra Foothill League opener for both teams. First-year coach Michael Lorente’s team will seek its first two-game winning streak of the season. The Thunder beat Bear Creek 52-47 last Friday to finish the preseason at 6-11. Seniors Kyle Peterson and Andre Jones are leading Rocklin by scoring 16.2 and 15.9 points a game, respectively. Girls basketball The SFL season begins for Rocklin’s girls on Friday when the Thunder travels to Loomis to face Del Oro. First-year coach Rob Ferraro’s team is 10-7, surpassing its victory total of nine in 2009-10. Rocklin earned win No. 10 last Friday by holding off Antelope 56-54. Sophomore Lydia Summers led the Thunder with 13 points. Junior Alison Willie added 11, and senior Courtney Grant had nine. Del Oro swept Rocklin last season, winning by an average of 32 points. Whitney’s girls will take an 8-9 record into their CAL opener Thursday against Mira Loma in Rocklin. The Wildcats snapped a two-game losing streak last Friday with a 67-48 victory over Granite Bay. Sophomore Kristin Ladas led the Wildcats with 17 points. Freshman Morgan Green added 13. Coach Joel Williams is not surprised by his team’s record. He expected a few tests during the preseason. “Wins are great, but we have to get ready for league,” he said. “We needed to see where we’re at.”