Incline basketball: Girls reload, eye postseason run
Incline is scheduled to compete in the Whittell Invitational through Saturday. The Highlanders return home to host West Wendover and Battle Mountain on Dec. 18-19.
From an outsider’s perspective, the Incline girls basketball team might seem destined for a rocky season after graduating one of the best players in school history.
Not likely, said third-year Incline coach Indra Winquest, whose Highlanders have their sights set on another deep postseason run with a roster of veteran leaders and up-and-coming talent.
“Obviously there’s no way you can replace a player like Molly,” Winquest said of two-time league MVP Molly Franklin, who’s now playing at Clark College in Vancouver, Wash. “But with everything we have this year, I think we’ll be able to fill in the gaps and will be just fine. It’s going to allow some more creativity and for some other players to step up.”
Coming off of a Division III state championship in Winquest’s first year, the Highlanders swept their league schedule last season before losing to Pershing County in the regional championship and eventual champion White Pine in the state semifinal. That Incline team, which had only one other senior besides Franklin, finished 20-6 overall.
Winquest expects similar success this season, despite an improved league across the board.
“If we can have that kind of a record in league this year I think it will really say a lot about our team, because we’re going to have some tougher games than we’ve had the last couple years,” he said.
In the absence of Franklin and her nearly 22-point scoring average, Winquest expects big things from his senior captain, Kira Porter. A 6-foot forward, Porter — who averaged 12.3 points, 13.5 rebounds and 5.4 blocks as a junior — is a dominant presence in the paint with her length and athleticism.
“We expect Kira to be a league MVP candidate and a force,” Winquest said. “She’s going to be the focus as far as how teams prepare for us defensively. But I’m not worried about it. She’s such a good passer and she sees the floor so well that she’ll make good decisions. So as teams focus more on her, it will open up opportunities for our other players to be effective and get good looks at the basket.”
Porter’s surrounding cast, Winquest said, is capable of scoring in bunches and shutting down opposing offenses. It starts with the speed and overall depth of the roster. With 13 quality players, the Highlanders substitute often with fresh legs, which helps sustain their aggressive full-court press defense.
“Defensively, we look really good. We’re going to try to get back to what we did two years ago and put pressure on the ball and press the entire game,” Winquest said. “We want to make other teams feel uncomfortable and not allow them to set up in their offense.”
Joining Porter in the starting lineup are senior point guard Briana Barraza, who was voted to the All-League second team last year, junior guard/forward Harmony Bates, who received All-League honorable mention as a sophomore, and junior guard Christine Schwartz. Taylor Redfern, a 5-foot-7 freshman guard, also earned a starting role and is leading the offense with a 12.4-point scoring average through five games.
“She’s got the complete package,” Winquest said of his freshman. “She can shoot the three and she can get to the rim. She’s young and there’s going to be a learning curve for her, but she’s going to be a big part of our team.”
Anne Schrage, a 6-foot senior, backs up Porter in the post, while guard/forward Mia Severance and 5-10 forward Mia Bibolet round out Incline’s five seniors. Junior guard/forward Karyss Thompson will also see minutes off the bench, Winquest said, as well as sophomores Emily White, Madison Wallner and Haeden Suter, who received significant time as a sophomore last year. Junior Taylor Cheney injured her anterior cruciate ligament and will likely miss the entire season, Winquest said.
To prepare for league, Incline’s early-season schedule is full of challenging nonleague games against larger schools. The Highlanders are off to a 3-2 start, with wins over South Tahoe, Fernley and Hug and losses to Spring Creek and Fallon. Their first league game is Dec. 18 against 2014-15 playoff contender West Wendover.
“It’s a different kind of look this year, but also a lot of the same as far as the way we want to play,” Winquest said. “I’m excited.”