Incline basketball | Boys drop to second place after loss to Yerington |

Incline basketball | Boys drop to second place after loss to Yerington

Incline senior guard Alex Zissis drives in for a layup against Yerington on Friday.
Sylas Wright / North Lake Tahoe Bonanza |

Northern DIII standings

Yerington 10-1 18-4

Incline 9-2 17-3

Battle Mountain 7-4 16-4

Pershing County 5-6 15-8

Silver Stage 5-6 7-9

West Wendover 4-7 7-15

North Tahoe 2-9 10-13

Rite of Passage 2-9 3-14

INCLINE VILLAGE — The Yerington boys established themselves as the team to beat Friday night.

Despite a deafening crowd that tried to will Incline to victory, the visiting Lions came up with one big shot after another late in the contest while outscoring the Highlanders 44-29 in the second half to earn a 71-60 win.

In the process the Lions separated themselves as the league leaders with a 10-1 record (18-4 overall) in Northern Division III play.

Incline, which entered the game tied for the league lead, is now in second place at 9-2 (17-3 overall), with both losses coming against Yerington. Battle Mountain, meanwhile, which was tied for first as recently as Jan. 24 and is the only team in league to defeat Yerington, has lost three straight to drop to 7-4 (16-4 overall).

“What a great atmosphere,” Incline coach Tim Kelly said of Friday’s game. “That had to be the loudest, most enthusiastic crowd I’ve ever seen at Incline High. It was awesome. Two great teams going at it and playing to the best of their abilities.”

Yerington’s combination of size and athleticism proved too much for Incline to overcome, particularly after the Highlanders went cold from the field during a couple of extended stretches in the second half.

Senior guard Jack Bessette helped keep the Highlanders in the game with clutch shooting, including consecutive 3-pointers at the start of the fourth quarter that gave Incline a brief 47-46 lead. Bessette finished with five 3-pointers, including three in the fourth quarter, and a team-high 17 points.

But it wasn’t enough as the Highlanders could not come up with the big shots they needed down the stretch — and the Lions did.

“Basketball is about both ends of the court and I thought we defended very well. They hit some tough shots with hands in their faces,” Kelly said. “The biggest hiccup we had was that we just couldn’t knock shots down. We usually shoot the ball well. I think Yerington defended us well, but I also know we missed some shots that we normally hit.”

The Highlanders got off to a solid start and led 20-16 after one quarter and 30-27 at the half. The lead slipped away in the third quarter, however, when the Lions scored 19 points to Incline’s 11 to carry a 46-41 lead into the final frame.

The noise level in the Incline gym reached its peak after Bessette opened the fourth with back-to-back 3-pointers. After Yerington answered with four straight points to regain the lead, Incline’s Alex Zissis hit a 3-pointer and Tommy Thompson followed with a layup through traffic to put the Highlanders in front, 52-50.

It was the last time Incline led as Yerington responded with a 9-0 run and never looked back.

Sophomore guard Koby Foster and junior forward Sam Hammond led the Lions with 20 and 18 points, respectively, while Bryan Ramirez scored 13 points and Matt Brannan had 10.

Zissis and Thompson each scored 10 points for Incline.

The Highlanders bounced back from the tough loss with a 66-45 win at Rite of Passage (2-9, 3-14) the following day. Thompson led Incline with 16 points, and Zissis added 11.

Incline — which will host the Northern Division III regional tournament Feb. 20-21, likely as the No. 2 seed — has three league games remaining. The Highlanders play at Pershing County on Friday and host Silver Stage on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. They host North Tahoe next Friday, Feb. 13, at 7:30 p.m.

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