TRUCKEE - Whatever Geoff Stephens told his Truckee girls basketball team at halftime, it worked.
The Wolverines fell behind early in their Mount Rose League opener against visiting Incline, trailing 11-4 in the opening minutes and by as many as 13 points late in the second quarter.
Truckee reversed its fortune in the third quarter, however, picking up its intensity to take over the lead with a 13-0 run and never look back en route to a 48-41 win.
"We did a lot of soul-searching at the half," said Stephens, who changed his defense from zone to man and applied an aggressive full-court press. "I asked them, 'Can you beat them? Yeah, well how do you want to do it?'"
Aside from their full-court press, which caused problems for Incline ball handlers, the Wolverines began taking, and hitting, shots from the perimeter against the Highlanders' zone defense.
Senior guard Ashley Harris began the third-quarter with a 3-point swish to set the tone. After three free throws by the Highlanders extended their lead to 30-19, Truckee began its run.
Jackie Bolton drained a midrange jumper and Sydnie English followed with an offensive rebound and putback. Katey Hamill, English and Bolton scored the next six points on outside shots, and English capped the 13-point rally with an old-fashioned three-point play after a steal and foul.
"Obviously we started hitting our outside shots, but our press also worked, and the girls played hard," Stephens said. "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."
The visitors came out with a hot shooting hand as Molly Franklin and Kortney Solis connected from the perimeter and Kerrie Tonking slashed to the bucket for hard-earned points, all while Truckee struggled to score on the other end.
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 Bolton put back an offensive rebound before the buzzer.
From that point on, the Wolverines outscored the Highlanders 32-14 on their way to the win.
"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."
English led the Wolverines with 16 points, while Hamill finished with 10 points and five assists, and Bolton 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Truckee improved to 8-7 overall and Incline fell to 8-8.
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.
"We just couldn't make a shot, and when you can't make a shot your confidence goes down," said Truckee 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.
"I was impressed with their execution of their offense," Irvin said. "They're a well-coached team. That number 20 (Porter) is a special 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 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, and Kyle Mello had five.
Senior guard Rob Rubsamen scored nine points for the Highlanders. Jack Clouthier scored six points on two 3-pointers, and Tommy Thompson and Jared Skowronski each scored five.
Truckee is now 6-8 overall and Incline is 8-7.
UP NEXT: Truckee plays at North Tahoe on Friday, girls at 6 p.m. and boys at 7:30.