Defending champ Incline girls ready for another run at state title

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — The Incline Village Highlander girls’ basketball team should really be shooting for its third straight state championship this season.

In 2019-20, the Highlanders with a core group of sophomores earned the Nevada 2A crown by beating nemesis White Pine at both the regional and state tournaments.

Last year was wiped out by the pandemic, leaving the girls to ponder what might have been.

“We lost last season and we had the best team in the state,” said Highlanders Head Coach Indra Winquest. “The pandemic took away a great opportunity. We’re using that to fuel our fire. We always play with a chip on our shoulders but this year there is extra motivation.”

The core group of sophomores are back this year as seniors — Elisabeth Stranzl, Brooke Gutheil and Eiley Tippins.

Stranzl is a sharp-shooting guard and Gutheil and Tippins are the 6-foot-2 twin towers in the paint.

Stranzl was the team’s leading scorer two years ago at 12.6 points per game. She also averaged four assists, four steals and three rebounds per contest. Stranzl connected on 47 of the team’s 103 3-pointers on the season.

“I’m expecting a strong year from Liz,” Winquest said. “She’s gonna lead the team at point guard.”

Tippins, who just signed to play in college, was the team’s second leading scorer at 12.2 points per game, just behind Stranzl. Tippins also averaged 9.4 rebounds and more than two blocks.

Gutheil scored eight points and grabbed 8.5 rebounds, made three steals and blocked more than three shots per game.

Tippins and Gutheil make it rough on opposing teams that try to score inside. The Highlanders gave up opposing offenses just 25 points per game on their way to the state title.

We’ve got tremendous size,” Winquest said. “We’re going to lock down the paint and make teams work to score. I’m expecting us to be strong on defense and utilizing our size on offense by going inside and then kicking it out to our shooters.”

The size doesn’t end with Tippins and Gutheil.

Juniors Molly Ellis and Annie Stembridge are both 5-11.

When the Highlanders tip off their season at 11 a.m. Friday against Smith Valley, the starting five is expected to be Stranzl, Gutheil, Tippins, senior Mattison Lampe and Ellis.

Incline has six seniors, including Lizbeth Callejas and Vanessa Machuca and four juniors, including Alexus Cardiel and Gianna Eppolito.

The Highlanders will also play Fallon on Friday and Pershing County and Mineral County on Saturday.

“It’s going to be interesting, we’re gonna find out real quick where we are,” Winquest said.

The Highlanders are put through weekly COVID tests and Winquest hopes that doesn’t interrupt what can be a special season. He’s talked with his team about being smart and taking care of themselves.

And if their season lasts as long as they hope, the state tournament will be just down the road at the Lawlor Events Center at the University of Nevada, Reno.

“We’re excited,” Winquest said. “If we make it to state, we don’t have to go to Las Vegas.”

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