Incline basketball | Girls alone in first place after comeback win
Not a whole lot went right for the Incline girls in their state championship rematch against Pershing County on Friday — until crunch time.
The Highlanders struggled offensively and trailed for most of the contest. True to their championship form, however, the hosts battled back from a 29-21 deficit at the end of the third quarter to earn a hard-fought, 34-32 win.
“We just have a lot of young girls, and they aren’t used to playing in a big game like that,” said Incline coach Indra Winquest, whose Highlanders defeated perennial power Pershing County in last year’s Division III state championship. “It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win. It was nice to get that against a good team like Pershing.”
The Highlanders, who were edged on the scoreboard in each of the first three quarters, outscored the Mustangs 13-3 in the fourth to escape with the comeback victory.
Feeding off the energy of its large home crowd, Incline used a 12-0 run at the start of the fourth to take over the lead for the first time since the opening minutes, at 33-29.
Five different players contributed to the scoring streak, with junior point guard Briana Barraza coming up huge with five of Incline’s final seven points.
“Briana had her best game of the season. She hit some big shots and really worked hard on defense,” Winquest said.
Pershing County sophomore Riley Jaramillo hit a clutch 3-pointer with 1:30 remaining to end the run while shaving Incline’s lead to 33-32.
Barraza responded by converting the front end of a 1-and-1 to give Incline a two-point lead. Jaramillo then fired a long 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have given the Mustangs the win, but the attempt missed its mark.
“I thought it was an outstanding game,” said Pershing County coach Lee Houston. “We have a lot of respect for Incline and we knew we had to play a good game to be competitive with them. And I thought the girls did that.”
The game was a defensive battle from the start as the top two teams in the league traded leads through the first five points.
The Mustangs created some distance by scoring the final five points of the first quarter and the first four points of the second to take a 14-5 lead. They led 16-13 at the half and stretched it to 29-21 with a 13-8 third quarter.
Pershing County effectively limited Incline senior Molly Franklin — one of the leading scorers in the state — as well as junior forward Kira Porter.
“They were really keying on Molly and took her out of her game,” Winquest said. “Pershing wanted to slow down the game and make us play in the half court. We haven’t really played a game like that.”
While the Mustangs managed to keep Franklin and Porter in check, the Highlanders did the same with Pershing County seniors Abby Bake and Mikayla Montes, who combined for only two points.
“Harmony (Bates) was huge. She guarded Abby Bake and did a great job on her,” Winquest said.
Barraza, who also created an early spark when the Highlanders were struggling offensively, scored Incline’s first four points of the game on slashing drives. She finished with a team-high nine points.
Franklin scored eight points, and Bates, Porter and Taylor Cheney each had four.
Jaramillo scored a game-high 12 points for the Mustangs, while Mary Happy contributed nine points and Bailey Wanner had six.
With the win, Incline — which defeated Silver Stage the following day and Hug on Monday — is the last remaining undefeated team in league, at 5-0 (12-3 overall).
Pershing County fell to 4-1 in league and 11-6 overall.
In the Highlanders’ 59-32 win at Silver Stage on Saturday, Porter led the way with 16 points and 13 rebounds, while Franklin scored 12 points and Cheney had 11.
Franklin scored 20 points in Incline’s 56-44 nonleague win at Hug. Porter added 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Christine Schwartz scored eight points.
Incline plays a rival game at North Tahoe on Friday at 6 p.m. and hosts West Wendover and Battle Mountain on Jan. 23 and 24.
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