ZEPHYR COVE - 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 the loss all came back to a sloppy third quarter that was riddled with turnovers.
The Warriors started out strong enough.
Austin Neil dropped a huge 3 to open the game and welcome Incline to Whittell. The Warriors hung on to their early lead with layups from Mark Waite.
Whittell followed it with a low scoring second quarter, seven points, but then so did Incline, six points. The Warriors held a 17-14 edge going into half.
The third quarter was the game changer. Whittell's defense struggled with the Highlanders' outside game.
"The last three games we've been concentrating so much on the inside that they were just a little hesitant to get out on the shooters," Whittell coach Phil Bryant said.
The result was a 21-point third from Incline. Add a substantial number of Whittell turnovers to that, and it equals a 21-15 third that gave Incline its first lead of the game.
"Too many turnovers really hurt us," Bryant said. "In that quarter we had 11 turnovers, and six of them led directly to baskets."
The Warriors regained momentum in the fourth, but Incline held the game just out of reach with free throws as each team fought for the clock to tick in their favor. Incline's Jack Clouthier and Tommy Thompson turned in 3-for-4 at the line in those final minutes.
The Warriors had two chances in the final 10 seconds. A 3-pointer that would have tied the game bounced off the rim in Incline's favor, and then the steal that squashed Bronken's last-chance layup plans.
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.
"I thought the sportsmanship was really good on both sides. All in all, I feel good about the effort, but I'd still rather be winning. The only reason I'm disappointed is for the guys," Bryant said.
UP NEXT: the Warriors will travel to North Tahoe (7-10, 2-3) to meet the Highlanders for the third time this season on Friday at 7:30 p.m. The Warriors won their first game against North Tahoe 46-44, and lost the second game 63-62.
Whittell and South Tahoe (9-8, 3-0) will face off Saturday at 6 p.m. at South Tahoe High School.