Whittell boys b-ball falls to Incline in 67-64 shootout
ZEPHYR COVE — This season’s only edition of the crosslake rivalry between Whittell and Incline’s boys basketball teams played out in frenetic fashion Tuesday night — and depth made the difference. The Warriors fell to the Highlanders 67-64 at the Whittell Invitational Tournament, unable to maintain an 11-point halftime lead en route to their first defeat of the season.
“The biggest difference is that we’re playing five-and-a-half guys and they’re playing 10 — and they’re subbing guys in and out,” Warriors head coach Phil Bryant said. “The loss doesn’t bother me in the least — it’s preseason and we’re trying to get better.”
Whittell (4-1) jumped out to a 7-2 lead midway through the first quarter of its home opener, and had a seven-point lead after the opening frame. In the closing seconds, Warriors guard Palmer Chaplin hit an uncontested three-pointer to make the score 20-13.
Both teams traded runs in a back-and-forth second quarter — Whittell scored the first nine points of the frame and Incline (3-2) answered with an 11-2 run. The Warriors scored the last four points of the half, and held a 35-24 lead at the break.
Whittell led by 12 early in the third quarter when the Highlanders began their rally. Incline used defense to get back in the game, and took its first lead of the game on a steal and layup from guard Alex Zissis that made it 46-45 with 58 seconds left in the quarter.
“I’m not disappointed in the effort — I’m disappointed in the decisions,” Bryant said. “We told them avoid the long pass — come back, help and get the ball that way — and don’t let them build into their pace.
“Whoever had the ball, they wanted to double, triple and create as much havoc as possible.”
After taking their first lead, the Highlanders got a steal and basket on the ensuing possession to cap a 19-2 run and go ahead by three. Chaplin answered with a three on the next trip down the floor and the teams went into the fourth quarter tied at 48 — but Incline had all the momentum.
“I liked the heart my guys showed,” Highlanders head coach Tim Kelly said. “My guys don’t give up — we believe that anybody can play with us for a half, but our style is all about playing with us for four quarters. We keep going and keep going, and our goal is to wear you down.”
Incline rode the momentum of its rally into the fourth quarter, opening the frame on a 9-2 run. The Highlanders went ahead by 11 points with 2:30 to play, and held on to beat Whittell for the fourth time in the last three seasons.
“It doesn’t do anything toward our league championship goals or anything else — hopefully it makes us a little bit better down the road,” Bryant said.
The Warriors had control of Tuesday night’s game in the first half, but slowly wore down after the break. Incline had a deeper rotation than Whittell, and that combined improved shooting allowed the Highlanders to come back in the second half — six of the visitors’ nine made three-pointers came in the last two quarters.
Chaplin led Whittell with a game-high 24 points, including four three-pointers. Colin Buchholz finished with 15, forward Quinn Kixmiller scored 12 and forward Bryce Bronken added 11 — all but two of the Warriors’ points came from those four starters.
Guard Tommy Thompson scored 16 points to lead Incline, and scored 13 after halftime. Guard Jack Bessette finished with 14 and Zissis had 13.
Prior to tipoff on Tuesday night, Whittell celebrated its first home game of the season by presenting its league and Div. IV state championship banners from last season. Incline, a state finalist in Div. III last season, spoiled the occasion in a game that had the intensity of a midseason contest.
“We respect Whittell so much — this is a really fun one-game series that we get to play,” said Kelly, a one-time player under Bryant. “It was a really fun atmosphere.”
Whittell returned to action Thursday night, resuming play in the Whittell Invitational against Owyhee (Nev.). The Warriors play Lee Vining (Calif.) Friday at 6 p.m., and conclude tournament play with a pair of games Saturday — they host Mammoth (Mammoth Lakes, Calif.) at 10:30 a.m. and face Loyalton (Calif.) at 4:30 p.m.