Incline at North Tahoe basketball: Incline boys pull away late in thriller
Northern DIII boys standings
Pershing County 6-2
Battle Mountain 5-4
West Wendover 4-5
North Tahoe 2-7
Silver Stage 0-7
Incline and North Tahoe both have three league games remaining. The Lakers play at home against Silver Stage on Friday at 7 p.m., at Pershing County on Saturday and at home against Yerington on Feb. 13. The Highlanders host Pershing County on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and play at Silver Stage on Saturday and at Yerington on Feb. 10. Regionals are Feb. 19-20 at West Wendover.
TAHOE CITY — Seven lead changes through three quarters had throngs of loudly cheering North Tahoe and Incline basketball fans anticipating a wild finish Friday night.
In contrast to the first meeting between the lakeside rivals, the visiting Incline boys made their shots down the final stretch, North Tahoe did not, and the Highlanders pulled away late for a 49-42 win.
“We just couldn’t put the ball in the basket at the end,” said North Tahoe coach Frank Wright, whose Lakers defeated the Highlanders 62-58 at Incline last month. “Incline played exceptionally well defensively. It was a great game. As usual, it was a barnburner.”
The gym was rocking from the start, with the North Tahoe jazz band providing quality sound and students from both schools packed into the stands, leading chants and rooting hard for their respective teams. A halftime ceremony crowned North Tahoe’s snowcoming king and queen.
“That was probably the best atmosphere North Tahoe has seen since the late ‘90s. That’s how Incline-North Tahoe used to be. It was insane,” said Incline coach Tim Kelly, a former player for the Highlanders.
Friday’s contest was a hard-fought, back-and-forth affair, with neither team able to seize momentum until the Highlanders edged ahead in the final minutes.
Incline, which led 32-30 entering the final frame, extended its lead to the largest margin of the game to that point, 40-34, after four straight points by senior center Blake Perry. North Tahoe responded with a pair of free throws by Max Burkhart and a fast-break layup by Andy Morgan to pull back within two, 40-38.
After another bucket in the paint by Perry, who came up big with seven of his eight points in the fourth, and a midrange jumper by North Tahoe senior Nick Joslin, the Highlanders scored the next seven points between numerous timeouts and Laker fouls. Incline was 5-of-8 from the free-throw line during the stretch, while North Tahoe had several shots rim out on the other end.
“Our guys made big plays,” Kelly said, singling out Perry, who pulled down 11 rebounds, for his big fourth quarter. “It was exactly the opposite of the game at our place. Our energy on defense was phenomenal, and we boxed out much better. North Tahoe killed us on the boards last time.”
Kelly also credited Tanner Quenneville and Jon Cromer for successfully attacking the middle of North Tahoe’s zone defense, as well as Joey Stranzl for his hot shooting hand from the perimeter. Quenneville finished with a game-high 18 points, Stranzl scored 15 and Cromer had four.
Junior guard Trent Lingruen, who scored 23 points in the teams’ first meeting, led the Lakers with 16 points. Joslin, Morgan and Teddy Gibeaut added six points apiece.
With both teams defending well — Incline with sticky man-to-man pressure and North Tahoe in its effective zone — every basket had to be earned. The first quarter ended in an 11-11 tie, and North Tahoe led 20-18 at the half.
The Lakers held their largest lead of the game at 24-19 early in the third quarter after freshman Eli Snyder converted a fast-break layup. But Stranzl answered with a three-pointer and a fast-break layup of his own to again tie the score at 24-24. It was one of seven ties in the game.
The Highlanders’ strategy to drive aggressively to the hole put them in the bonus late in the third quarter, which ended with an old-fashion three-point play by Quenneville to snap the final tie of the game.
Incline improved to 5-4 in the Northern Division III and trails only Yerington (7-0) and Pershing County (6-2) in the battle for one of the four playoff berths. Battle Mountain shares Incline’s 5-4 league mark, but the Highlanders own the tiebreaker over the Longhorns after an overtime win in their last meeting. West Wendover, which lost to Battle Mountain on Monday, is fifth at 4-5, and North Tahoe is sixth at 2-7.
“I think we’re playing the best basketball we have all season,” said Kelly, whose Highlanders lost by only one point to Yerington last week. “I think we’re defending really well, and that’s going to be our staple (moving forward).”