Incline roars past North Tahoe for 2A supremacy in northern Nevada
SPARKS, Nev. — Incline had prepared all season for Saturday’s Northern League championship basketball game.
The Highlanders unleashed a new style — a swarming full court press that featured aggressive traps and double teams and all out effort all of the time — and overwhelmed their surprise opponent.
The water runs green in Lake Tahoe as No. 2 Incline rampaged past No. 6 North Tahoe 74-33 in a battle for class 2A supremacy in northern Nevada at Sparks High School.
The Lakers pulled off an upset of No. 1 West Wendover late Friday night on a last second shot in overtime and was a stunning finalist.
“I actually didn’t believe it, because Wendover is right there with us,” said Incline senior co-captain Ian Smith, who scored a co-team-high 15 points. “But I have a lot of friends over there (North Tahoe) so I’m proud of them. They made it to state and I’m happy for them, but we got the ‘W’ today. We’ve worked so hard and we still want to win state but this is a nice reward. We’re gonna cherish it. But on Monday we’re going to get back to work and go win that state championship.”
The Highlanders usually play fast and aggressive. They whip the ball around the perimeter always looking to drive to the rim. They also work hard on defense and pride themselves in outworking everybody.
But what they brought to the court Saturday was more. A much more inclined level. It was a championship level that could carry them to a state title.
“We’ve been saving that style of play the entire season,” said Highlanders head coach Tim Kelly. “We’ve been practicing that way everyday to get ready for this, and we didn’t know who this would be. We thought it would be Wendover like everybody else. And so we wanted to come out and change the pace of play to get them running with us because we believe we have more depth than people think.”
Incline has 16 players on the roster and they all seem interchangeable. Kelly was substituting five players at a time to keep them fresh.
Fresh so they can do what Brad Rye did in one sequence.
The sophomore, who scored a career-high 15 points, drained a 3-pointer then sprinted to cover his man on the inbounds pass. After he helped force the pass elsewhere, Rye diagonally sprinted the length of the court, caught the Laker dribbler and stole the ball from behind. He then made a quick pass to freshman phenom TT Valosek who started a fast break that led to more points.
Rye put the cherry on top of his big game sundae by breaking the ankles of a North Tahoe defender with a crossover that brought the Incline bench to its feet.
“We wanted out run them, that was our strategy,” said Valosek, who scored nine points. “We definitely amped it up from yesterday. Today we came out and smoked them. We went out and played defense and got a big win for the championship. It was a hard win yesterday (vs. Battle Mountain) but now we’re gonna to Las Vegas for state.”
Early in the game it was another freshman, Brody Thralls, who got the party started.
Thralls canned three 3-pointers in the first period as the Highlanders jumped out to a 23-7 lead.
Rye took over the scoring load in the second. He drained three from long distance, and scored 11 of the Highlanders 15 points as they went into halftime up 38-20.
Junior Brayden Hock also connected from beyond the arc to make it seven 3-pointers by the break.
“People didn’t know Brody Thralls is pretty good, and that Brad Rye and Brayden Hock are pretty good,” Kelly said. “People don’t know about those guys because our seniors and TT kind of drove us this year. We got outworked for the first time all season against Battle Mountain and we wanted to make a statement that we are not only the best team in northern Nevada, we’re the toughest, hardest working team.”
The seniors pushed the Highlanders across the finish line.
Johnny Redfern scored nine of his 11 points, including two 3-pointers, in the last two periods and Smith netted 11 of his 15 in the second half.
Also for Incline, Liam Nolan-Bowers scored four points and Paul Larson drained a 3-pointer.
Incline extended its lead to 60-28 heading into the final eight minutes.
The Highlanders (23-6) next will play Friday and Saturday, March 1-2, in the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association State Championships as the top seed from the north.
They will play the south’s No. 2 seed, Lincoln County, at a time to be determined at El Dorado High School.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the Incline Village community,” Kelly said. “The roar we heard when they announced, “the No. 2 Incline Highlanders” … the people just erupted. Our town believes in them and loves to support them.”