Incline basketball | Boys look to ride depth, talent to Division III title | SierraSun.com

Incline basketball | Boys look to ride depth, talent to Division III title

Sylas Wright
swright@sierrasun.com
Incline senior point guard Alex Zissis drives to the hoop against McQueen last week. Zissis is one of nine seniors for the Highlanders.
Sylas Wright / Sierra Sun |

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Incline is scheduled to compete in the Whittell Tournament through Saturday. The Highlanders host a nonleague game against Portola on Monday at 7:30 p.m. before hitting the road to start league at West Wendover and Battle Mountain on Dec. 19 and 20.

On any given night, any one of Incline’s starting five could be high point man. Unless they are all outgunned by someone off the bench.

The Highlanders’ collective scoring savvy is just one of the luxuries enjoyed by third-year Incline coach Tim Kelly.

“We’re super deep,” Kelly said. “We have six kids or more who could easily score in double figures. They’re all really confident.”

The 2014-15 Highlanders are nearly identical to last year’s squad, which won its league and regional title before falling to Southern Nevada power Agassi Prep, 71-60, in the Division III state championship. Incline finished 24-7 overall.

Only three players graduated from that Incline team. Granted, one of them, Orin Porter, was one of the best players in the state. Despite the loss, however, the Highlanders boast plenty of returning talent with nine seniors to go along with a solid junior class.

“We’re pretty much the same team as last year. I think we will shoot a few more threes, because with Orin we got to the rim a little more last year. But we have the same exact style,” Kelly said.

“We’re going to be extremely aggressive. We’re going to run and press. We’re going to try to score 110 points every game. Our style is definitely going to be high octane. We feel like that’s the way we have to play.”

Incline is off to a 3-1 start after competing in the Truckee Basketball Classic last week and defeating Whittell, 67-64, on Tuesday. After giving up a late lead in a 70-69 loss to Division I McQueen on Thursday, the Highlanders rebounded to defeat Division I-A Dayton, 80-69, and league rival North Tahoe, 89-73.

As Kelly suspected, three different Incline players have recorded high-point games, while six players finished in double figures against the Lakers. Four were in double figures against McQueen and Dayton, and three against Whittell.

That was all done without their big man, senior All-Leaguer Ben Snyder, who is recovering from a shoulder injury from football season, Kelly said.

“We’re actually even deeper than last year. We have a lot of guys who can play a lot of really good minutes. That’s a humungous asset,” Kelly said.

Snyder and junior Blake Perry, both of whom are 6-foot-3, are the only true forwards on the Incline roster. While 6-2 senior Cole Steinberg has stepped in to essentially replace Christian Biscotti in the post, the rest of the team is made up of a bunch of speedy, sharp-shooting guards.

Leading the charge at point guard is senior Alex Zissis, who returns after being voted to the All-League first team last season. Senior guards Jack Clouthier and Jack Bessette also return after All-League junior years, and are joined by senior guards Tommy Thompson and Dylan Comstock. Every one of them can light up the scoreboard with their outside touch and slashing ability.

Steinberg, who Kelly said is a nice addition after not being on the team last year, Nicky Witty and Grant Goldenberg round out the large senior class. They are joined by juniors Tanner Quenneville, Joey Stranzl, Perry and Jerry Sanchez.

As far as Incline’s Northern Division III, Kelly expects the league to be competitive and balanced this season, with not a slouch among the eight schools.

“We want to be ready to face Agassi Prep in Las Vegas (in the state championship), but we’re not going to overlook anyone,” Kelly said. “It’s going to be a tough league.”

Multiple players contribute to 4-1 start

Incline had a different leading scorer in each of its games in the Truckee Basketball Classic.

Comstock led the way against McQueen with 18 points, while Clouthier scored 12, Thompson 11 and Steinberg eight.

Thompson was high point against Dayton with a 22-point effort. Zissis contributed 15 points, Clouthier 12 and Quenneville 11.

Zissis scored a game-high 27 against North Tahoe. Clouthier and Quenneville each scored 15, Thompson and Comstock each scored 11, and Steinberg had 10.

Against defending Division IV champion Whittell, Thompson scored 16, Bessette had 14 in his first game of the season, Zissis had 13 and Clouthier had eight. Steinberg pulled down 16 rebounds.

“I’m really happy so far,” Kelly said. “They play so darn hard and they’re so competitive. Watching these kids grow and become leaders has been awesome.”