The Lakers are starting to believe. And why not?
In a key Mount Rose League matchup between Division III foes North Tahoe and Incline on Saturday, the Laker boys outplayed the Highlanders on their own home court to earn a 60-51 win.
"That was a huge win. It was a league game we needed, and it was on their floor, which made it even sweeter," said first-year North Tahoe head coach Frank Wright, adding that the Lakers had not defeated Incline in at least eight years.
They pulled off the feat Saturday with a solid defensive effort combined with an efficient offense created after regularly breaking Incline's press.
After a tightly played first quarter ended with the North Shore rivals knotted at 14, North Tahoe outscored Incline 12-8 in the second quarter and 11-4 in the third to carry a 37-26 lead into the fourth quarter.
The teams traded baskets in an offensive fourth quarter, which played into the Lakers' hands as they held on for the big win.
"We had an enormous letdown Saturday," said first-year Incline head coach Tim Kelly, whose team learned last Tuesday that its top scorer, junior point guard Orin Porter, was academically ineligible and would be out the rest of the season. "But North Tahoe played well. I'm not going to say the only reason we lost is because we didn't play well. They hit big shots and we didn't. We allowed way too many buckets to go in."
Senior forward Colin Spencer and junior point guard Alex Tyler played huge roles in the win, as they combined for 40 points, while junior guard Noah McDermott and sophomore forward Mitchell Myers played perhaps their finest games of the year, Wright said.
Spencer used his size, and accurate free-throw shooting, to score a game-high 22 points on a 12-for-12 performance at the charity stripe. He also pulled down 12 rebounds. Tyler scored 18 points, while McDermott had five points, six rebounds and five steals, and Myers had seven points and seven rebounds.
"We pretty much dominated the game," Wright said. "We kept it close by refusing to put in close layups, which has been our year-long phenomenon. We did an outstanding job on defense, and everything we ran seemed to work. They had a difficult time stopping us defensively."
Without Porter, who was averaging 20.5 points per game, sophomore guard Jack Clouthier led the Highlanders with 15 points, while sophomore forward Ben Snyder scored 14 and Jack Bessette had 10. Incline also lost sophomore forward/guard Matt Hanna, who was averaging 13.8 points, in a tournament over the holiday break. Nevertheless, Kelly still thinks his team has the ability to make a deep postseason run.
"I'm really excited to see them (the Lakers) again in two weeks," he said.
With the win, the Lakers improved to 8-9 overall and 2-2 in Mount Rose League play. Incline fell to 9-9 overall and 1-2 in league.
Incline won the girls game, 59-37. The Highlanders jumped on the Lakers early, leading 21-8 after the first quarter and 36-18 at the half, led by a 25-point night by Molly Franklin.
The Incline girls are now 8-11 overall and 1-2 in league. North Tahoe is 6-9 overall and 0-4 in league.
UP NEXT: The Lakers are scheduled to host Sparks on Tuesday and Whittell on Friday, girls at 6 p.m. and boys at 7:30. They play at South Tahoe next Tuesday.