Incline basketball | Boys can’t get past Lions, heading to state as second seed
The Division III state championship tournament will be contested at Sunrise Mountain High School and Orleans Arena in Las Vegas this Friday and Saturday, Feb. 27-28. Incline opens against top-seeded Agassi Prep in the semifinal round Friday at 8 p.m., while Yerington faces The Meadows in a semifinal Friday at 4:40 p.m. The semifinal winners meet for the state championship Saturday at 8:10 p.m.
INCLINE VILLAGE — The Yerington boys have a knack for hitting clutch shots in Incline’s gym.
In similar fashion to their last meeting, the top-seeded Lions out-gunned the host Highlanders late in the fourth quarter to pull out a 75-68 win in the Northern Division III championship Saturday.
“Once again Yerington hit the big shots down the stretch to beat us,” said Incline coach Tim Kelly, whose second-seeded Highlanders lost both regular-season contests against the Lions, 71-60 on Jan. 30 and 82-69 on Jan. 2. “It was just one of those nights. We actually challenged all the shots and played well, but they hit the shots they needed to hit to win.”
Both Yerington and Incline will represent the Northern Region at the Division III state championship tournament in Las Vegas this weekend. Incline secured its state berth with a 58-48 win over third-seeded Battle Mountain in the regional semifinal round Friday night, while Yerington punched its ticket to state with a 38-33 semifinal win over fourth-seeded Pershing County.
After trailing for much of Saturday’s title game, the Highlanders seemed poised to pull off a thrilling comeback victory in the fourth quarter.
Incline junior guard Tanner Quenneville opened the final period with a slashing layup through traffic that shaved Yerington’s lead to 57-55. Senior guard Tommy Thompson then followed with back-to-back 3-pointers, the second of which put Incline ahead 61-60.
It was the last time the Highlanders led. Yerington responded with a 9-2 run, aided by a big 3-pointer and baseline jumper by sophomore guard Koby Foster and an off-balance runner by senior guard Bryan Ramirez.
The Highlanders had their chances to cut into the lead once again, but they repeatedly misfired down the final stretch.
Both teams came out firing early.
Incline’s Jack Clouthier and Thompson and Yerington’s Ramirez and Foster matched 3-pointers for the game’s first 12 points. Clouthier hit four 3-pointers in the first half and finished with 18 points, while Ramirez hit three 3-pointers in the first half and five total en route to a game-high 25 points. The Lions limited Clouthier after his hot start.
“Yerington did a good job finding him (Clouthier) early in the second half, and I think we didn’t do a great job of getting him touches in the second half,” Kelly said.
While the Lions maintained their accurate shooting touch from outside — they made eight 3-pointers in the contest — they also capitalized on their size advantage and used several runs to keep the Highlanders at bay.
They built their lead to 20-12 near the end of the first quarter with a 9-0 run, and extended their lead from three points to 11 with an 8-0 run midway through the third quarter.
The Highlanders kept fighting back and finally took over the lead for the first time since early in the first quarter on Thompson’s consecutive 3-pointers in the fourth. Thompson hit four 3-pointers in the game and finished with 18 points.
Incline senior forward Ben Snyder held his own against Yerington’s bigs, grabbing 10 rebounds to go along with his nine points, while also holding the Lions’ 6-foot-5 center, Sam Hammond, to eight points. But the Highlanders could have used more size in the post as the Lions won the battle on the boards overall.
The Highlanders will carry a 20-5 overall record into the state tournament. They’ll open against No. 1 Southern seed Agassi Prep — which defeated Incline in last year’s state championship — in the semifinal round Friday. Yerington, at 24-4 overall, will face No. 2 Southern seed The Meadows on Friday.
“I know for a fact we can both win this Friday night in Vegas,” Kelly said of his team and Yerington. “We would all really like to play them (the Lions) one more time at Orleans Arena on Saturday.”
The Highlanders took care of business in their semifinal Friday night. They led most of the way against a quality Battle Mountain team, including a 13-7 lead after one quarter and 31-21 at the half.
The Longhorns (20-6), which were the only Division III team to defeat Yerington this season, made things interesting in the fourth quarter. They pulled to within three points, 51-48, with 52 seconds remaining. But Clouthier and Jack Bessette made six straight free throws to put the game away.
“Our focus had been completely on this game for a couple of weeks, so it was nice to finally play it. What a great game between two very good teams,” Kelly said.
Clouthier led Incline with 19 points on four 3-pointers, giving him eight 3s in two games, while Thompson added 15 points and Snyder had 11 rebounds. Kelly complimented the defensive efforts of Snyder, Thompson and senior guard Dylan Comstock.
“It was an awesome feeling walking into the locker room to congratulate our team for advancing to Vegas, but it was even nicer congratulating the seniors,” Kelly said. “We’ve been talking about Vegas since day one and for them to conquer that goal was great. I’m very proud of them and the year they’ve had.”
Junior center Breven Engelson led Battle Mountain with 15 points and eight rebounds, and Dominic Valles had 10 points.
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