Lady Highlanders lose superstar but intend to contend for state crown
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — The Lady Highlanders basketball team has a bitter taste left from last year, but there is tons of excitement about what this new, but similar, group of girls can accomplish this season.
Incline Village has reached the class 2A state championships in four out of the past six seasons, including playing in the championship game the past two, only to fall to Northern League foe and nemesis White Pine. They won everything in 2014.
That’s a bitter taste but head coach Indra Winquest is excited about his new-look team, despite the graduation of one of the best to ever play 2A hoops in Nevada, Taylor Redfern.
She finished her career among the leaders in nearly every offensive category, and some defensive.
“Taylor was a 4-year varsity player and just a special kid,” Winquest told the Tribune. “But what kind of happened was we never really had size so we became one-dimensional, but a really good one-dimensional team. We lost the state title game because we got killed on the boards, didn’t have depth and White Pine had seen us so they knew how to defend us. That’s not going to be the case this year. As long as we stay healthy and stay out of foul trouble, we should dominate the boards. It’s going to be hard for teams to score down low on us.”
A pair of sophomores, Brooke Gutheil and Eiley Tippins, provide the height down low for the Highlanders.
Gutheil is a returning starter at 6-foot-1 while Tippins is a first-year varsity player at 6-2. Gutheil averaged six points, seven rebounds and about two and a half blocks per game, but was the lone Highlander at 6-feet or above.
“We’re working on getting the ball in the post and play inside out — Eiley and Brooke are both such good passers,” Winquest said. “We’re excited about the completely different look, multidimensional offense. We’re really emphasizing being patient and getting good shots.”
If Gutheil and Tippins can be threats down low, then that opens up the 3-point bonanza for senior Sami Giangreco (5-5) and Madison Corneil (5-5) and sophomore Elisabeth Stranzl (5-3).
Corneil and Stranzl are team captains this season and are the top two returning scorers. Stranzl is a constant 3-point threat and averaged about 12 points per game while Corneil is a defensive dynamo that made over three steals per game while chipping in seven points.
Giangreco didn’t play as a junior but Winquest is thrilled to get “her fierce, competitiveness” back on the court.
Winquest also likes his bench, something that was real thin and noticeable during the Highlanders run last year in postseason. Before filling out his roster with junior varsity players, there were just eight players on the roster.
Senior Kate Tong (5-5), junior Jackie Schwartz (5-6) and sophomores Kensal Coudriet (5-9) and Mattison Lampe (5-6) will all see lots of court time.
Sophomores Mariana Leoncio (5-3) and Nicole Spanial (5-5) round out the Highlanders roster.
“Kate and Mattison are phenomenal defenders and Jackie and Kensal are going to be key players,” Winquest said.
The Highlanders kicked off their season Monday with a 59-47 over Hug in Reno.
They lead by about 25 points midway through the second quarter, but had to hang on in the final 8 minutes.
“It was an encouraging first game, lots of exploring of whom we are,” Winquest said. “I think we’re better than last year. We have size and controlled the boards against Hug. It got kinda sloppy at the end, but Hug is improving and made us work.”
Incline (1-0) plays maybe their three toughest games of the season, along with any game against White Pine, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Dec. 5-7, against larger schools Fernley, Galena and Churchill County, respectively.
Winquest is excited to keep developing his team and show the community a new style when they finally play their first home game Dec. 21 against Pershing County.
“We’re absolutely expecting to fight for league and state titles this year,” Winquest said. “We’re not the best in league until we beat White Pine in the playoffs, they are the team to beat. But the girls are hungry, I’m hungry and we’ve still got a sour taste left from last year.”