ZEPHYR COVE, Nev. - For a second it looked like Whittell might pull it off.
Garrett Bronken's free throw hit the rim perfectly and rebounded back into his hands, just like he intended. With 8 seconds on the clock and down by two, Bronken turned for the layup right as Incline senior Rob Rubsamen's hand came down on top of the ball and popped it free.
Rubsamen's steal was the final nail in Incline's 46-44 come-from-behind win Tuesday at Whittell. It was a nail-biting final minute, but close games are something Incline is getting used to without their two leading scorers, Orin Porter and Matt Hanna.
"It's going to look like this again. Every game we play is going to look like this," Incline coach Tim Kelly said.
It was a three-point loss to South Tahoe on Friday. It was a two-point win against Whittell on Tuesday. Uncomfortably close games are sure to follow without Porter, who was averaging 20.5 points per game.
But even without Porter and Hanna, Incline still found a way to win Tuesday. New kids stepped up, and the defense toughened up.
"We have great kids. It's never been about those two kids. It will never be about any two kids. It's just about the young men who are here," Kelly said. "We don't think about losing people we just think about the people we have."
The kids that Incline did have on Tuesday got the job done just fine in the second half.
Incline's defense forced 11 Whittell turnovers in a crucial third quarter. Six of those led directly to baskets.
Tommy Thompson and Drew Bessette became a fixture in the Warriors' passing lane. Bessette grabbed four steals and two deflections and Thompson added three steals.
A layup from Jack Bessette gave the Highlanders their first lead of the night, 29-28, halfway through the third. Christian Biscotti followed with a huge 3, and Incline pulled ahead. Biscotti went on to knock down 11 points, going 3-for-5 from 3-point range.
"When Christian Biscotti plays to his potential, we're good," Kelly said.
Biscotti did, and by the end of the third, the Highlanders had outscored Whittell 21-15, and carried a three-point lead into the fourth.
Drew Bessette continued his steal rampage into the fourth, with a coast-to-coast layup that put the Highlanders up 37-36.
The final minutes, however, all came down to free throws, and Jack Clouthier and Thompson came through.
Clouthier, who also led the Highlanders with 12 points, turned in a 3-for-4 free-throw performance in those final minutes. Thompson did the same, and it was the difference in the two-point win.
The win improves Incline to 10-9 overall and 2-2 in Mount Rose League play. Whittell fell to 10-7 overall and 0-4 in league.
While the boys had to fight tooth and nail to get past the Warriors, the Incline girls had little trouble dispatching the hosts in a 48-24 rout.
The Warriors kept the score close through the first quarter, which ended in an 11-11 tie. But Incline took complete control of the Mount Rose League contest with a 14-2 second quarter that gave the Highlanders a commanding 25-13 lead at the half.
Incline, which employs an aggressive full-court press, maintained its defensive intensity after the break, outscoring Whittell 13-6 in the third quarter and 10-5 in the fourth to coast to the 24-point win.
"Before the game we talked about the team that makes the least amount of mistakes is going to win, and we ended with 28 turnovers and 12 fouls," Whittell coach Tom Esposito said. "And Incline had a real good game. They knocked down a bunch of shots, and their press just took us out of our game."
With the win Incline improved to 9-11 overall and 2-2 in the Mount Rose League. Whittell is 8-10 overall and 1-3 in league.
UP NEXT: The Highlanders host Truckee on Friday, girls at 6 p.m. and boys at 7:30.