Incline basketball | State champion Highlanders poised for title defense
The top Division III girls basketball teams in the state are game-planning to take down the defending champs from Incline — who, at least on paper, appear vulnerable after losing six seniors to graduation, including four All-League talents.
The Highlanders can hardly wait for the challenge.
“It will be a grind, but we’re looking forward to it,” said Incline coach Indra Winquest, who led the Highlanders to the 2013-14 state championship in his first year at the helm, earning him Coach of the Year honors.
“Losing six seniors was a big deal,” Winquest continued. “That’s a lot of leadership. Our girls last year knew their roles on the team and they embraced it, and they just knew how to win. This year is a lot more teaching for me and running different offensive sets. But defensively we’re pretty much the same. We should be fun to watch just like last year.”
Incline graduated most of its core from last season, when they capped a 25-3 campaign with a 53-38 victory over perennial power Pershing County in the Division III state championship. Gone from that team are All-Leaguers Kortney Solis, Elise Nelson, Kerrie Tonking and Torii Baker, as well as Sarah Wright and Caroline May.
Luckily for the Highlanders, they return a pair of first-team All-League selections in senior Molly Franklin and junior Kira Porter, both of whom have wreaked havoc on their opposition during Incline’s 6-3 start in nonleague play.
Franklin is averaging 27.3 points per game, which ranks No. 1 in the state in any classification among teams that enter stats in Maxpreps.com. Franklin, a versatile, sharp-shooting, 5-foot-9 guard, has scored 218 points in eight games, with 27 made 3-pointers.
Porter, meanwhile — a rangy, 5-foot-11 forward — is third in the state among all classifications in rebounds per game (13.9), and first in total number of rebounds, with 125.
“Kira has really taken over down in the post on offense, so that’s going to be crucial to our success this year,” Winquest said. “Teams are going to focus on Molly and try to double-team her, and we need to be able to get the ball down to Kira and run the offense through her sometimes.”
Incline’s third captain, 5-10 senior post Krista Conn, is out with an ankle injury but is expected to return for the Highlanders’ Jan. 9 showdown against Pershing County. “Losing Krista was big, but getting her back will really give us a size advantage over everyone else,” Winquest said.
Junior guard/forward Mia Severance replaced Conn in the starting lineup. She’s joined by sophomore forward Harmony Bates and junior point guard Briana Barraza, who Winquest said is key in terms of easing ball-handling duties from Franklin.
Junior post Anne Schrage and sophomore guard Christine Schwartz have contributed nicely off the bench, Winquest said, while sophomore Taylor Cheney and freshman Haeden Suter have also logged quality minutes in the early going.
“It sucks to have an injury (to Conn), but it’s forced some girls to step up. I think that could help us in the long run,” Winquest said.
The Highlanders’ youth — with four underclassmen on the roster — is most evident on offense, said Winquest, who plans to run more set plays in order to get the ball to Franklin and Porter. On the other end, he said the team has the athleticism to play a similar brand of pestering, full-court trap defense as last year’s group.
“Defensively, I think we’re going to be strong, especially in the paint,” Winquest said. “Like last year, even though we’re not as experienced, we’re going to put a lot of pressure on teams and try to make it difficult for them to get comfortable in their offense. We want teams to dread coming to Incline.”
Climbing back to the top of the Division III will be no simple task, however. Winquest expects Pershing County to be strong once again, as well as Yerington and White Pine, which moved to the Southern Division III this season.
“We’re going to be a target, obviously,” Winquest said. “Teams are going to be coming at us. We’re expecting that. They know that Molly is averaging 27 points a game, so they’re going to key on her. But I feel like we have enough.”