Incline basketball | Girls edge Pershing County; boys split league games |

Incline basketball | Girls edge Pershing County; boys split league games

Incline junior Kira Porter is shown in the Highlanders' first meeting against Pershing County on Jan. 9. The Highlanders defeated the Mustangs 29-25 on the road Friday.
Sylas Wright / North Lake Tahoe Bonanza |

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Incline ends the regular season with home games against rival North Tahoe on Friday. Girls tip off at 6 p.m. and boys at 7:30. The Highlanders will then host the Northern Division III regional postseason tournament on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 20-21. The boys will face Battle Mountain in the opening round of the tournament, while the girls will play either Silver Stage or West Wendover.

Offense is tough to come by when the Incline and Pershing County girls basketball teams clash.

The top two teams in the Northern Division III met for the second time this season in Lovelock on Friday, and as Incline coach Indra Winquest predicted, a tightly contested, defensive battle ensued. Just like in the first meeting, Incline came out on top, this time by a hard-earned final of 29-25.

“Our girls were really flying around on defense, and Pershing made it really hard on Molly (Franklin). They have some fast guards on that team and they did a good job of containing us,” said Winquest, whose Highlanders edged the Mustangs 34-32 in Incline on Jan. 9.

Pershing County — which employed a box-and-one defense on Franklin, with four players in a zone and one assigned to hounding Incline’s standout guard — held the defending state champs to just nine points in the first half. Incline’s defense, meanwhile, which used a 3-2 zone, held Pershing County to just 15 points in the first half.

The Highlanders made adjustments at the break and outscored the Mustangs 12-4 in the third quarter to take over the lead at 21-19 going into the final frame. Incline won the fourth quarter 8-6 to secure the win.

“They (the Mustangs) have a great program; we have a lot of respect for them,” Winquest said. “They’re a really good team and a good test for us.”

Pershing County held Franklin, one of the top scorers in the state, to her lowest output of the season. Franklin scored only three points, all from the free-throw line.

With Franklin bottled up, other Highlanders stepped up to the occasion. Sophomore Taylor Cheney scored a team-high 12 points, going 4-for-7 from 3-point range, while sophomore Harmony Bates scored six points on two 3-pointers, and Kira Porter had six points, 10 rebounds and five blocks.

The next day, Incline used a big second half to roll to a 49-28 win over visiting Silver Stage.

Winquest said the Highlanders had tired legs from the big road game the night before and started out slowly. The Nighthawks took advantage, matching their seven points in the first quarter and five in the second to enter the half tied at 12.

Incline picked up its game in the second half, outscoring the visitors 16-5 in the third quarter and 21-11 in the fourth to pull away.

Franklin finished with 20 points, Porter had 16 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks, and Briana Barraza scored five points.

Incline improved to 11-0 in league play and 18-3, while second-place Pershing County is 9-2 in league and 17-8 overall. Silver Stage, at 4-6 in league (7-9 overall), is battling for the fourth and final playoff seed.

Boys split

Playing shorthanded all weekend, Incline’s boys split their pair of league games. They rebounded from a 58-48 loss at Pershing County on Friday night with a 60-51 win over visiting Silver Stage on Saturday.

The Highlanders (10-3 league, 18-4 overall) had already secured the No. 2 playoff seed, while Pershing County and Silver Stage, both with 6-7 league records, are fighting for the final playoff seed.

Against Silver Stage, Incline — which was missing Jack Bessette, Tommy Thompson and Cole Steinberg — trailed 19-17 after one quarter and 31-27 at the half. The Highlanders then outscored the Nighthawks 21-13 in the third quarter and 12-7 in the fourth to pull out the win.

Senior point guard Alex Zissis led Incline with 22 points, Jack Clouthier hit six 3-pointers and finished with 18 points, and Joey Stranzl scored nine points.

Against Pershing County, Zissis, who played the entire game, scored 14 points and hit four 3-pointers, Clouthier had 12 points on four 3-pointers, and Stranzle had nine points on three 3-pointers. William Gattrell led the Mustangs with 24 points (he followed with a 23-point effort in a loss at North Tahoe the next day).

“We played well all weekend,” said Incline coach Tim Kelly. “It’s hard to stay focused since we clinched the No. 2 spot for next week. No excuses. Pershing County played very well on Friday. They hit shots and controlled tempo.”

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