Seventh-ranked Highlanders rain in threes
INCLINE VILLAGE – Pick your poison with the seventh-ranked Incline High boys’ basketball team.
Whittell elected to zone the Highlanders on Wednesday night, and Incline rained in a season-high 10 three-point shots for a 77-36 Northern 2A League victory.
Instead of giving Incline’s quick guards opportunities to penetrate and dish to dominant 6-foot-4 post Josh Dykstra, the Warriors decided on a 2-3 defense to force shots from the perimeter.
Incline senior Sam Witt didn’t mind at all. He buried three shots from beyond the arc in the first half and added a fourth in the second half on his way to a game-high 18 points. His back-to-back three-balls inside the final minute of the first quarter expanded Incline’s lead to 18-7, and the Warriors never got any closer.
“I give all of the credit to my point guard (Michael Ceragioli) because he was finding me open. If I’m open, I have a lot of confidence shooting and I’m ready to knock down the ball whenever I need to,” Witt said. “Usually I’m pretty good at getting the ball where I want it, and when I do, I let it fly.”
The Highlanders, who are ranked among the top 10 teams by the Sierra Nevada Sports Media, improved to 18-2 overall and 7-0 in league play.
Ceragioli didn’t pull the trigger from the perimeter often, but he was effective when he did. Ceragioli made two three-point attempts in the first half as Incline built a 35-20 lead.
“Our movement around the top of the key was (important),” Witt said. “When point guard comes to the top side of the key and draws the other defender, it leaves me wide open on the wing.”
Incline coach Dan Schreiber didn’t expect a zone defense from the Warriors on Wednesday night.
“We don’t see a lot of zone,” Schreiber said. “I actually told the kids tonight (beforehand) I expected (Whittell coach) Tyler (Rose) to play a man against us because he’s done it so much with some other schools.
“Ten threes, that’s 30 points, and if we were off tonight it’s a different game. We have everything to lose, and they have everything to gain, so we have to come to play.”
Dykstra finished with 15 points before Schreiber emptied his bench with 2 minutes, 58 seconds to go in the third period and Incline ahead 50-28. Even the tallest player on the court gets involved in the transition game, and Dykstra nearly brought down the house with a dunk in the third period. But Whittell’s Blake Heldt-Werle didn’t allow the Incline star to get his dunk and was whistled for an intentional foul.
“Before the game coach said they never quit, and they always go hard to the finish,” Witt said. “That’s what ‘Dyk’ does. He always goes to the basket hard, and if he gets a chance to dunk it, he will.
“That’s just the way people play. We’re not expecting to get anything easy, you know?”
Witt and Rhett Davis each splashed in a three-pointer in the third quarter as the Highlanders exploded for 26 points and a 61-30 lead.
Witt said that one of Incline’s main goals is to go through the league season unbeaten. The Highlanders need five more wins to complete that feat.
“I want to win every single game for the rest of the season and bring home the state championship,” said Witt, who missed last year’s state semifinal run by the Highlanders while attending Palm Desert High in Southern California.
“I came back to do it right and play with all of my best friends on the team.”
Senior Cody Nelson repeatedly slashed into the heart of the Incline man-to-man defense and topped the Warriors with 12 points. Heldt-Werle sank two deep three-point shots in the fourth quarter and finished with 10 points. Warriors’ junior John Robinson blocked several shots, including a baseline attempt by Dykstra.
If Incline runs the table, it will likely rewrite the school record book. Schreiber said that 26 wins are the most that the school has won in a season.
“We talk a lot about that,” Schreiber said.
Whittell (1-5) plays host to Rite of Passage on Friday, while Incline entertains Battle Mountain on Friday. The teams will meet again on Tuesday in Zephyr Cove.
Highlanders win JV game
Incline won the junior varsity game despite 18 points by Whittell’s Hunter Morgan. Kyle Clouthier and Jordan Wright led Whittell with 21 and 18 points, respectively.