Incline basketball | Girls fall short in bid for back-to-back titles
Incline girls basketball coach Indra Winquest feared that the Highlanders’ youth and lack of offensive production outside of their two stars would catch up to them at some point this season.
It did in the Division III state semifinal Friday in Las Vegas.
The defending state champs lost 49-40 to top Southern seed White Pine, which went on to defeat Needles 52-36 for the Division III state title.
“Despite the outcome, we definitely exceeded my expectations,” said Winquest, whose Incline team, which finished 20-6 overall and won the league title, had only two seniors and four underclassmen. “I’m very pleased with our season. We showed a lot of resilience and played our hearts out.”
Incline kept the score close throughout Friday’s contest, trailing only 19-15 at the half after an evenly played first quarter. The Highlanders outscored the Bobcats 12-11 in the third quarter and briefly took a one-point lead, but White Pine (25-2) pulled away with a 19-13 fourth quarter.
“We couldn’t get any stops down the stretch. We were trading baskets and couldn’t cut into the lead,” Winquest said. “They (the Bobcats) did a great job closing the game offensively. They made their shots and free throws.”
Senior guard Molly Franklin paced Incline in the first half, when she scored seven of her 11 points. Junior forward Kira Porter took over in the second half, scoring 18 of her game-high 22 points as the Highlanders repeatedly fed her in the post. Porter also pulled down 10 rebounds and had three blocks, and Franklin had four assists.
“Molly carried us in the first half and Kira carried us in the second,” Winquest said. “Our strategy in the second half was to get the ball down to Kira, and she was a beast. We just didn’t give her enough support offensively.”
Winquest said junior point guard Briana Barraza was limited with a shin injury, which forced Franklin to handle the ball and expend more energy than normal.
“Molly wore down a little bit in second half, but the effort was there. She came to play,” Winquest said of the Northern Division III MVP, who finished as the second leading scorer in the state, averaging 21.6 points per game.
The Bobcats also took advantage of their distinct size advantage, while senior guard Jaden Ernest got hot in the second half and made four clutch 3-pointers en route to 13 points. The Highlanders did not help their cause with 21 turnovers.
“For the first time this year we were outsized at every position — and not just in height, but strength-wise,” Winquest said. “White Pine is a very physically strong team.”
Only two Incline players scored outside of Franklin and Porter. Taylor Cheney finished with four points, seven rebounds and four assists, and Harmony Bates had three points.
Debra Kingston led the Bobcats with 16 points and Jenna Gubler added 10, with nine of her points coming in the fourth quarter. Gubler was 7-for-11 at the free-throw line in the final frame.
Pershing County, which defeated Incline in the regional championship, was eliminated with a 39-35 loss to Needles in the semifinal round.