TRUCKEE, Calif. - They say defense wins championships.
First-year Incline boys basketball coach Tim Kelly has his team believing it.
The visiting Highlanders frustrated Truckee with a scrappy defensive effort that often led to easy offense en route a 61-38 win in both teams' Mount Rose League opener Thursday night.
"We wanted to make sure to defend our tails off and make it hard for them to score," Kelly said. "Our league mentality started January 2. We want complete focus, and we want to be the best team we can be and play as hard as we can possibly play."
The coach had no complaints Thursday.
Led by junior point guard Orin Porter, who finished with a game-high 30 points and 15 rebounds, the Highlanders harassed Truckee ball handlers with aggressive pressure defense that they mixed up on every possession.
If the Wolverines did manage to get the ball past their end of the floor without a forced turnover, they were met with an equally aggressive half-court defense - also changed up throughout the contest - that prevented the hosts from running any kind of offense.
"Usually coach says to push the tempo at first. We want to play our speed and put people away early," Porter said.
That they did, as the Highlanders stretched a 12-6 first-quarter lead to 37-21 by the half.
"We just couldn't make a shot, and when you can't make a shot your confidence goes down," said first-year Truckee head coach Patrick Irvin. "We failed to really run any offense, and when we did get a good look, we couldn't hit."
While every Incline player contributed to the shut-down defensive performance - they had 16 steals in the game - Porter put on a show offensively.
The smooth-flowing guard hit a 3-pointer to open the game and scored the Highlanders' first seven points as they jumped out to a 7-1 lead. Porter went on to score 12 points in the second quarter and had 21 by the half. He also had four steals, along with teammate Drew Bessette, and dished out five assists.
"He's becoming the player and man that he's called to be," Kelly said. "He'll know what that means. It's really exciting watching him become a phenomenal teammate, person and player."
The Highlanders kept their foot on the throttle after the half, holding the Wolverines to only two points in the third quarter. With the game already in hand, Incline outscored Truckee 16-15 in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
"We wanted to dictate how the game was played, and the guys really stepped up and made that happen," Kelly said.
Senior guard Rob Rubsamen scored nine points for the Highlanders, who also ran effective offensive plays throughout the contest when not on a fast break. Sophomore Jack Clouthier scored six points on two 3-pointers, and Tommy Thompson and Jared Skowronski each had five.
"I was impressed with their execution of their offense," Irvin said. "They're a well-coached team. That number 20 is a special player."
Senior point guard Graham Millie led Truckee with 13 points, as he heated up late to score nine in the fourth quarter, while Adam Morgan and David Burnham each scored six.
Incline is now 8-7 overall and Truckee is 6-8.
The Incline girls controlled the first half of their Mount Rose League contest at Truckee on Thursday, leading by as many as 13 points behind the hot shooting hands of Molly Franklin, Kortney Solis and Kerrie Tonking.
But the Wolverines took over the lead with a big third quarter and never looked back as they handed the Highlanders a 48-41 defeat.
"I think part of it is we ran out of gas," said Incline coach Wayne Nash, describing the difference between the first and second halves. "And then we quit running our stuff."
Nash also pointed out that Truckee took 61 shots in the game to Incline's 34.
Yet it was the Highlanders who maintained the momentum through the first two quarters.
With Franklin and Solis each hitting from the perimeter, finding open spots on the fringes of Truckee's zone defense, and Tonking slashing to the bucket for hard-earned points, Incline jumped out to a quick 11-4 lead.
The Highlanders increased their lead to the largest margin of the night, 27-14, in the final minute of the half. They led 27-16 at the break after Jackie Bolton put back an offensive rebound before the buzzer.
Momentum swung in the Wolverines' favor at the start of the third quarter, however.
Senior guard Ashley Harris hit a 3-pointer to open the half as Truckee began causing havoc with a full-court press and man defense, tasking Katey Hamill, Sydnie English and Bolton with stopping Incline's big three.
The Wolverines, who also began hitting their perimeter shots, went on a 13-0 run to take over the lead at 32-30 late in the third quarter. Tonking tied the score at 33-all with a nifty finger roll, but Hamill answered with another outside make, and Truckee never trailed again.
"Obviously we started hitting our outside shots, but our press also worked, and the girls played hard," said Truckee coach Geoff Stephens. "We were kind of going through the motions in the first half. But we can be good when we play hard. I was proud of our second half."
Nash said the loss was tough to take after the strong first half.
"No one is more hurt than coach Nash. I wanted that one," he said.
Incline is 8-8 overall and Truckee is 8-7.
UP NEXT: The Highlanders host Pershing County on Friday, girls at 6 p.m. and boys at 7:30.