Laker girls avenge loss to Incline |

Laker girls avenge loss to Incline

Seth Lightcap/Sierra SunNorth Tahoe point guard Kelly Hester drives toward an open lane during Tuesday's 50-39 home win over the Incline Highlanders. Hester, a junior, contributed a season-high 22 points.

While the weather outside Tuesday was frightful, avenging a previous loss to Incline was delightful for the North Tahoe girls basketball team. The Lakers dispatched the Highlanders 50-39 at home after losing a Dec. 7 matchup in Incline.

The game got underway with both teams moving the ball well. Midway through the quarter, momentum shifted toward North Tahoe as the Lakers began patiently controlling play. Laker guard Sydney Courcier led the charge as the North Tahoe team settled into a groove and built a lead. The quarter ended with the Lakers up 13-6.

North Tahoe head coach Scott Conn orchestrated the successful first quarter strategy switch.

“We consciously slowed the game down to frustrate Incline,” Conn said. “They are a team that likes to run every chance they have, so we tried to throw that off.”

Senior guard Kelly Hester also noted the benefit of the team focusing its offense.

“We tried to take our time setting things up,” Hester said. “Changing the pace of the game allowed us to step in on our shots and box out for rebounds.”

Opening the second, Courcier continued to dominate with a picture-perfect outside jumper that swished through the net to start the quarter. The remainder of the second wasn’t nearly as well executed by either team, however. Several traveling calls were blown in both directions, while Incline’s open court defense threw off North Tahoe’s earlier offensive finesse. Going into halftime, the Lakers led 23-14.

North Tahoe came out strong to start the third, but Incline did not back down.

Hester drove home several baskets to rally North Tahoe, while a tough full-court press and good offensive execution by the Highlanders kept them in the game. With two minutes left in the quarter, the Laker lead had been reduced to four points. The deteriorating spread motivated the Lakers, who stormed down court for six quick points to finish the quarter up again by eight.

The fourth quarter began and ended on the free throw line. With both teams now in the bonus, free throws slowly added points to the board. Hester was especially consistent, hitting layups, free throws, and open-court shots on her way to a season-high 22 points. Hester and North Tahoe’s steady offensive onslaught was more than the Highlanders could defend against, and after all the free throws were shot, North Tahoe won 50-39.

Hester was thrilled with the all-around performance of the team.

“It felt great to contribute so much,” she said. “But I couldn’t have done it without the assists and rebounds from my teammates.”

Conn was also pleased with the offensive effort.

“I am really starting to like our point production,” he said. “We still have things to improve on, such as our points from the post, but overall we’re significantly more consistent than I expected. We’re averaging 54 points a game.”

Defensively, Conn attributed his team’s success to lane defense.

“We were able to shut down the middle lane,” Conn said. “In our last game against Incline they were driving the lane on us.”

The win boosts North Tahoe’s record to 3-6 and 1-1 against the Highlanders. Playing Incline is always a special game for North Tahoe.

“Incline hustled hard,” Hester said. “It’s fun to play them because we know a lot of the girls.”

Conn agreed.

“It’s a fantastic friendly rivalry,” he said. “The kids respect each other and always give it a clean effort at both ends of the court.

“I think our team can play significantly better,” the coach continued. “We have not yet hit our stride. But having won two of the last three, I’m extremely pleased with our recent performance. We’re on the right track for our league season opener.”

North Tahoe hosts Silver Stage on Jan. 4 at 6 p.m.

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