The Incline girls basketball team gave defending state champion Pershing County a scare in a Northern Division III regional semifinal matchup in Elko on Friday, only to come up a little short, 54-44.
Incline's boys, meanwhile, dropped their opening game of the tournament 74-64 against defending state champion West Wendover to end their season.
Incline's girls defeated North Tahoe 53-42 in the quarterfinal round to set up their semifinal against top-seeded Pershing County, which went on to defeat White Pine 42-30 for the regional title and top Northern seed in the state tournament.
No one, with the exception of the Highlanders, expected such a close contest against Pershing County, which steamrolled just about everyone during the regular season en route to a 29-2 record (the Mustangs' two losses came against Division I programs Reed and Reno).
But that's just what the Mustangs got against a red-hot Incline squad that entered the tournament on a seven-game win streak.
"To me, it was not just a little scare. It was a huge coming-out party for Incline," said second-year coach Wayne Nash, whose team entered the tournament as a No. 4 seed. "It showed that, we're not afraid of you anymore. We can take you."
The Highlanders came out strong, matching buckets with the Mustangs while holding leading scorer Sarita Jo Condie in check with sticky defense by Torii Baker and Briana Birazza. By half, Incline trailed by only four points, 31-27.
Incline kept the game tight well into the fourth quarter, cutting it a two-possession game midway through. But the experienced Mustangs fended off any kind of run in the final minutes to hang on for the win, ending Incline's season at 16-13 overall.
"Without having any seniors, I think we made a huge statement. We should be one of the top contenders next year. I'm very excited about next year," Nash said.
Junior Kortney Solis led the Highlanders with 15 points, making three of her five 3-point attempts, while Kerrie Tonking had nine points, and Molly Franklin and Kira Porter scored eight apiece. Porter grabbed 14 rebounds and Tonking eight. Condie scored 13 points for Pershing County.
Solis scored 14 points against North Tahoe to lead the way. Tonking contributed nine points and Porter had 12 rebounds as the Highlanders used a 14-2 second quarter to pull away.
Incline's sixth-seeded boys had the defending state champs against the ropes in the opening minutes as they jumped out to an 8-0 lead.
Sophomore forward/guard Matt Hanna, playing his first game since suffering a broken bone in a December tournament, led the early scoring surge, which caught the Wolverines off guard.
"(Hannah), we didn't expect him. I think it was his first game back from injury. He is a great, great player and he torched us," West Wendover coach John Sharp told the Elko Daily Free Press. "They're a tough team and they're well-coached."
West Wendover, seeded No. 3 in the tournament, recovered from the early deficit to pull to within two by the end of the first quarter, 16-14. By the half they had edged ahead 29-27.
The Wolverines heated up in the third quarter, outscoring the Highlanders 25-16 to stretch their lead to 54-43. Incline scored 21 points to West Wendover's 20 in the fourth, but it wasn't enough, and the Highlanders' season ended at 12-14 overall.
"We just allowed some buckets in the third quarter," said first-year Incline coach Tim Kelly. "We had some defensive letdowns that hurt us. We allowed their three best players to get some good looks.
"It was an evenly matched game. The whole tournament was evenly matched. That's the way our division was."
While the Highlanders benefited from the return of Hanna, who finished with a game-high 21 points, they suffered from the loss of junior forward Christian Biscotti, who tore his ACL in the final game of the regular season at Sparks.
"That hurt us," Kelly said, adding that Biscotti was playing his best ball of the season when he went down. Incline also lost its leading scorer, junior point guard Orin Porter, midway through the season to academic ineligibility.
Nevertheless, Kelly said he was proud of his team's effort in spite of its obstacles.
"We went in there and did a great job with the guys who were playing. They played as hard as they could play," he said. "The guys did an amazing job. It was a great year for them. I'm very proud of them."
Kelly added that he just wished the Highlanders could have sent their two seniors, Rob Rubsamen and Drew Bessette, to the state tournament in Las Vegas.
"I feel bad for Rob and Drew. It's impossible not to go, 'What if?' I just wish we could have gotten them to Vegas," he said.
Sophomore guards Jack Clouthier and Jack Bessette scored 14 points apiece for Incline, and freshman forward Ben Snyder added 11. Kaydn Sharp had 18 points to lead the Wolverines.
West Wendover went on to lose 86-83 in overtime to Silver Stage, which went on to lost to Pershing County 57-50 in the title game.
- The Elko Daily Free Press contributed to this story.