Incline basketball: Girls edged by White Pine in state championship thriller
RENO — After six lead changes in the fourth quarter — and momentum see-sawing by the possession — the question in the final seconds of Saturday’s Division III girls state championship was this: Who would deliver in the clutch last?
White Pine’s Ashlyn Huntington was that player.
The senior guard scored the final five points for her team — on a go-ahead three-pointer with 45 seconds remaining and a go-ahead pair of free throws with 9.5 seconds — to lift the Bobcats to their second straight state title by the narrowest of margins, 44-43, over a game Incline opponent.
“Ice-cold veins.” That’s how White Pine coach Krystal Smith described her senior’s crunch-time performance.
The same could be said of Incline’s standout freshman, Taylor Redfern.
On her way to a game-high 24 points, the smooth, sharp-shooting guard drained a three-pointer with a minute left to give the Highlanders a 40-39 lead. After Huntington answered with her big three — putting the Bobcats in front 42-40 — Redfern was fouled from behind the arc and calmly hit all three free-throw attempts to give Incline a 43-42 lead with 16.7 seconds remaining.
“As a freshman, for her to hit three free throws like that at the end was huge,” said Incline coach Indra Winquest. “She’s the reason we were in the game.”
Huntington went right to work after Redfern’s free throws, driving hard to her right and drawing the foul in the paint that led to her game-winning shots at the line.
But with 9.5 seconds still on the clock, Incline had time to run one last play. The play was drawn up for Redfern, who, when stopped on her drive, dished off to senior point guard Briana Barraza, who drove baseline and misfired on a contested layup attempt as time expired.
“I knew it would come down to the last possession. I thought we had a good play at the end; it just broke down,” Winquest said. “Credit to White Pine. They’re a great team and are well-coached. They did what they had to do to win the game. But I felt like we made them beat us.”
Huntington, who finished with 15 points, was not the only White Pine player to come up big. Senior forward Debra Kingston posted a team-high 20 points and limited Incline senior standout Kira Porter to eight points, while senior forward Emily Bischoff converted two free throws with 1:23 remaining to snap a 37-37 tie.
“We have strong seniors and strong senior leadership,” Smith said.” We had four seniors on the court at the end, and they’ve been here before. They were flat-out determined today to leave it all out on the court.”
The Highlanders were slow to warm up offensively and committed multiple turnovers against White Pine’s tight man-to-man defense in the first half. The Bobcats opened the game with the first five points and built their largest lead at nine, 20-11, late in the second quarter.
Redfern helped keep Incline close with 10 points in the quarter, including the final five to pull the Highlanders to within three at the half, 20-17. Porter, meanwhile, who was held scoreless in the half, contributed with her presence in the post en route to a team-high nine rebounds and seven blocks.
“We knew they were tough and that Kira Porter could light us up at any time,” Smith said. “Debra did a tremendous job bottling her up. We didn’t know what to expect from 22 (Redfern), and she gave us fits all game long. Both of them are great players.”
Incline used a 6-0 run to take its first lead of the game at 28-26 midway through the third quarter. White Pine responded with its own 6-0 run to reclaim the advantage and carry a 33-30 lead into the back-and-forth fourth quarter.
“I’m very proud of our girls’ effort. To get to this level three years in a row says a lot about the program,” said Winquest, whose Highlanders won the state title in 2014 and lost to White Pine in the state semifinal last year. “After the smoke clears the girls will realize that they did a great job. They played great and there’s nothing else they could have done.”
While Porter scored Incline’s first four points of the fourth quarter and Redfern had the final six, junior guard Christine Schwartz connected on a timely three-pointer in between that knotted the score at 37. She and junior Harmony Bates each finished with five points.
As they have all season, the Highlanders benefitted from a large crowd that tried its best to will them to victory.
“It’s awesome to see the community come down and support us. The support really helped us through some critical moments,” Winquest said. “We’re thankful for our fans.”
Incline posted a final record of 20-6 overall and White Pine was 27-6. Both teams were top seeds in the tournament.
“We’ll be back next year,” Winquest said. “We’re not going anywhere.”