Highlander girls eye run at state hoops title
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Taylor Redfern is a superstar, but she can’t win all the basketball games without help.
Incline’s senior co-captain has led the Highlanders in scoring in all three of her varsity seasons. She earned All-State honors and has won the Northern League offensive MVP award twice in a row.
She’s terrific, but last season was Incline’s lone scoring threat and the Highlanders lost in the 2A northern region playoffs by just 10 points to eventual state champion White Pine.
Better teams double-teamed and locked her down and the Highlanders had no answer.
It appears things have changed in 2018-19.
The 5-foot-7 guard, who last year averaged 19 points, four rebounds, three assists, the steals and three blocks per game, is surrounded by weapons and the Highlanders plan to make opponents feel the pain when they leave others open.
“Taylor is by far the best offensive player and, in my opinion, she’s the best all around player in the league,” said Highlanders sixth-year head coach Indra Winquest. “All the teams key on her and this year I think we’re going to have some options and ways to protect Taylor where teams can’t double team or box here because other girls will make them pay.”
Two freshmen — 5-3 Elisabeth Stranzl and 6-1 Brooke Gutheil — have their elder teammates excited.
Winquest said Stranzl is tough, can shoot the 3 or get to the rim and Gutheil has experience since he’s been coaching her since middle school.
“We think those two will come in and help in a lot of different ways,” Winquest said. “They are ready to play at this level.”
“We have less girls than usual, but we’ve all been playing together for a long time,” Redfern said. “We have some good underclassmen come up that we’re real excited about.”
Winquest is looking forward to putting Gutheil on the floor with 5-9 junior Serena Faulkner to enjoy some size the team hasn’t had in a few years.
Co-captain Madison Corneil rounds out the starting lineup. The 5-5 junior guard will handle the rock along with a few other teammates and is excited for what this season may hold.
“We have a lot of good ball handlers and more size this year which is good because we usually have a real small team,” Corneil said. “We’re in pretty good shape. I expect us to do well. With the new talent, they bring different aspects. We will have more than one dynamic.”
There are just nine on the roster, but “they can all play and will all contribute,” said Winquest, who loves his options on the bench including defensive specialist junior Kate Tong, senior Carolyn Eppolito who started every game last season, senior Ava Laurie, who can drain jumpers from beyond the arc and junior Jackie Schwartz.
“We don’t have a lot of depth but the girls coming off the bench are strong,” Winquest said.
The biggest roadblocks in the way of Incline achieving its goal this year of earning one of the top two seeds in the northern region playoffs are usual suspects White Pine, Battle Mountain, Pershing County and Yerington, who Incline beat 50-46 in the first round last year.
Improvement, more size and two future star freshmen, has Incline thinking it has the right mix to make a run at the Nevada 2A state title.
“I think we have the total package this year and we’re hoping for good health and decent weather on game days,” said Winquest, who remembers past winters essentially ruining seasons due to crazy amounts of make up games in little time. “So far we’re liking what we’re seeing. We want to get out and push the ball but we also want to get back on defense and try to make teams shoot jump shots and not beat us down low. We’re looking to better on the boards. If we can protect the rim we’ll be a really hard team to beat.”
The Highlanders season kicked off with a 52-11 victory Tuesday night against Sierra Lutheran in Carson City. League play begins Dec. 11 at Yerington.
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“Let Them Play,” rallies are taking place across California with a mission to bring back high school and youth sports.