Incline basketball | Girls fall to Mustangs, advance to state as No. 2 seed
The Division III state championship tournament will be contested at Sunrise Mountain High School and Orleans Arena in Las Vegas this Friday and Saturday, Feb. 27-28. The Highlanders open against top-seeded White Pine in the semifinal round Friday at 6:20 p.m., while the Mustangs face Needles on Friday at 3 p.m. The semifinal winners meet for the state championship Saturday at 6:20 p.m.
INCLINE VILLAGE — The Incline and Pershing County girls took defense to a whole nother level in Saturday’s Northern Division III regional championship.
In a rematch of last year’s state title game, Pershing County held Incline scoreless in the first quarter and limited the Highlanders’ leading scorer to just one point en route to a 25-23 victory.
“They came out playing a tight man defense in the first quarter, which is not what we expected,” said Incline coach Indra Winquest, whose top-seeded Highlanders (20-4) defeated the second-seeded Mustangs (20-8) in both regular-season meetings, as well as last year’s state championship.
“We got back into it, but they made it really hard on Molly (Franklin) and we were not hitting shots.”
Sophomore guard Mikayla Renfroe hounded Franklin from the opening tip to the final buzzer. Franklin, who entered as one of the top scorers in the state, averaging better than 22 points per game, attempted only four shots and had five turnovers.
When not applying defensive pressure, the Mustangs effectively slowed the game down in the half court, passing the ball around the perimeter of Incline’s zone defense until finding an open shot. The strategy paid off, particularly early in the game as the Mustangs led 8-0 after the first quarter.
Despite the Highlanders’ slow start offensively, they battled back with their own brand of tough defense and trailed only 12-8 at the half.
Incline took the lead for the first time late in the third quarter, 16-14, after a 3-pointer by Taylor Cheney and a pair of free throws by Briana Barraza. The Highlanders then extended the margin to six on consecutive slashing layups by junior forward Kira Porter to start the fourth quarter.
After a free throw by Pershing County senior Abby Bake, Incline sophomore Harmony Bates put back an offensive rebound to give Incline its largest lead of the game at 22-15 midway through the fourth quarter.
It was all Mustangs after that, however.
Pershing County senior Mikayla Montes banked a 3-pointer, Renfroe followed with another 3, and Montes hit yet another 3-pointer as the Mustangs regained the lead 24-22 with 1:35 remaining. During the 9-0 run, Incline turned the ball over on four consecutive possessions.
“We kind of got a little tired the last three or four minutes because we worked hard to get the lead,” Winquest said. “But they (the Mustangs) hit big shots. I’ve got to give it to them.”
Franklin made the front end of a 1-and-1 to narrow the score to 24-23 with 46 seconds left. Incline then repeatedly fouled to stop the clock, and Pershing County left the door open by making only one free throw down the stretch.
Incline had a chance to tie the score or go ahead on the final possession, but Renfroe swiped the ball from Franklin’s hands as Pershing County held on for the two-point victory.
“In the end we didn’t protect the ball and didn’t execute,” Winquest said. “Our defense was really good the entire game. We held them to only 25 points; but the problem was we only scored 23.”
Porter led the Highlanders with six points and 12 rebounds, Barraza and Cheney scored five points apiece, and Krista Conn had four points.
Freshman Taryn Houston scored seven points to lead the Mustangs, while Renfroe and Bake each scored six.
Both Incline and Pershing County advanced to the Division III state championship tournament in Las Vegas with semifinal wins Friday night. Incline defeated fourth-seeded West Wendover 54-42 and Pershing County defeated third-seeded Yerington 36-22.
“Every game from this point on is going to be a war,” said Winquest, whose team opens the state tournament with a semifinal against top Southern seed White Pine on Friday. Pershing County, meanwhile, plays Needles, the No. 2 Southern seed. “We’re going to have to play one of the best games of the season if we want to advance.”
The Highlanders did not play their most crisp game of the season against West Wendover, but they played well enough to clinch their state berth with relative ease.
“It was a sloppy game,” Winquest said.
The Wolverines (10-17) hung with the defending state champs early, but Incline pulled away late in the second quarter and early in the third, when Franklin hit a 3-pointer and free throw to extend the Highlanders’ lead to 39-26.
Incline led 54-34 with 2:45 left in the contest. West Wendover scored the final eight points to shave the final margin to 12.
Franklin scored a team-high 19 points and had six steals, Porter finished with 18 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks, and Cheney had five points and six steals.
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