Incline boys’ basketball team punches above their weight at Sparks tourney | SierraSun.com

Incline boys’ basketball team punches above their weight at Sparks tourney

After a decisive 88-58 win over Coral Academy of Science — Reno to open the season, the Class 2A Incline boys' basketball team moved on to face much stiffer competition at last weekend's Sparks High Tournament, fighting to a 1-2 record against a Class 4A opponent and a pair of Class 3A squads.

Incline opened tournament play against Class 4A Damonte Ranch on Thursday, Nov. 30, and suffered a 77-37 defeat against the larger Mustangs.

"Thursday was a great first quarter, but we found out what happens when we let our offense dictate our defense. We went cold offensively in the second quarter, so we stopped defending and we got run by Damonte," Head Coach Tim Kelly said in an email to the Bonanza.

"Our defense has to lead us to beat good teams, Damonte is a good team and we can't try to outscore them, we have to stop them and let our defense dictate our offense."

Incline would have a tough time stopping Damonte senior Drew Damboise, who dropped 24 points on 8 of 14 shooting, including four 3-pointers. Senior Jerry Thomas also hit four 3-pointers in the game and finished with 14 points.

The Highlanders would play much better the following day in an 80-64 loss against Class 3A Churchill County.

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The team's played to a 13-13 tie after one quarter, before the Greenwave took a 31-26 lead into halftime. The Highlanders fought back to even the game at 52-52 going into the fourth, but foul trouble ultimately cost the team down the stretch.

"Fallon made some huge plays on Friday night in the fourth quarter and we just couldn't hang on after Liam Nolan-Bowers and Jackson Littleton fouled out," Kelly said. "We played great against a very strong and physical team. We learned how important defensive rebounding will be for our success as Fallon went extremely hard to the offensive glass."

Churchill County finished with a 22-11 advantage on the offensive glass and a 48-29 rebounding advantage.

Senior Will Stranzl led Incline with 27 points on 7 of 15 shooting. Stranzl was also 4 of 6 from behind the 3-point line. Sophomore Zach Pexa also dropped four, 3-pointers on the night, and finished with 16 points. Freshman Matt Cornell led the Highlanders with eight rebounds, and Jackson Littleton led the team with five assists.

Incline then went on to take a 69-51 win over Class 3A Sparks the following day to conclude the tournament. The Highlanders would force 40 turnovers in the game, which resulted in 22 more attempts at the basket. Stranzl again led Incline with 22 points. Pexa was next with four more 3-pointers and 14 points, followed by Littleton with 12 points, and junior Johnny Redfern with 10 points. Nolan-Bowers finished with nine points and a team-high eight rebounds.

"Will Stranzl showed everyone how good he is by scoring 60 points for the weekend and earning All Tournament team," Kelly said. "Zach Pexa also is taking advantage of Ian Smith being out with his strained ankle … Littleton and Johnny Redfern were great all weekend at the point guard position, especially defensively. In the end we learned a lot and we took gigantic steps forward in getting better."

Incline (2-2) will continue to play up in class and will next face Class 4A North Valleys at the Whittell High Tournament on Thursday, Dec. 7.

The team won't return for a home game against Yerington on Jan. 6.

Staff writer Justin Scacco can be reached at 530-550-2643 or via email at jscacco@sierrasun.com