With students barred from watching, Incline sweeps WHS
INCLINE VILLAGE — There was no shortage of controversy surrounding Thursday night’s matchup between Whittell and Incline high school basketball teams.
The only thing lacking in the games were fans and consistent shooting.
Due to safety issues surrounding their last meeting, students were banned from Incline property during the Nevada 2A Northern Division games, leaving the stands nearly empty and the teams out of sync. Ongoing tensions between the two Lake Tahoe rivals escalated into fistfight and potential involvement of a firearm during their previous meeting Jan. 19 in Zephyr Cove.
In front of just their parents, coaches, faculty and boys teams, the Warriors lost both games — the boys 42-28 and the girls 53-31. The relatively empty and quiet gym was a far cry from the heated debate the rivalry typically brings.
Whittell girls coach Lindsay Wines expressed sadness that the actions of one student — the WHS student who allegedly brought the firearm to the previous game — affected so many community members in a such a negative manner.
“I don’t think the action of that student shows the true heart and spirit of the Whittell student body and our people,” she added. “He made a mistake and the community is aware of that, but look at tonight and how it changed the lives of 100 athletes, parents and friends.”
In a boys game that had postseason implications, first-place Incline (7-0) overcame a slow 8-5 first-period start to emerge victorious in a low-scoring affair.
“Both teams were real tight and I couldn’t get the kids to relax,” Whittell coach Don Amaral said. “I have to give it to Incline, though. They are a well-coached team.
“If before the game somebody would have told me that we would hold their top scorers (Chris Park and Kevin Dyess) to just 13 points combined and still lose, I wouldn’t believe it.”
Whittell team leader Ryan Salomon, who has averaged 20 points in the past seven games, went 2-for-15 from the field and struggled to make his patented low-post moves in the paint.
No players from either side reached double digits, but Whittell’s Jake Summers managed to bury three 3-pointers for nine.
The Highlanders threw out several defenses against the Warriors, switching from man to zone after three Incline players found themselves in foul trouble.
The Warriors pulled to within three at 29-26 with 4 minutes to play, when Highlander coach Dan Schreiber returned his team to a man defense, and the Warriors wrestled with the pressure.
“We were getting good looks, but the ball just wasn’t falling,” Amaral added. “We couldn’t get into the flow of the game and we didn’t have anybody down low.”
Both teams were tense early on and certainly playing under unusual circumstances, which Schreiber said contributed to the sloppy play through the first two periods.
“These kids are not conditioned to play at 3 p.m. and without fans,” he noted. “They just got out of sixth period and walked into the gym to play a basketball game. They’re routine is all broken up and that affects them in many ways.”
Brian Varmuza found seams in the Warrior zone defense and led the Highlanders with nine points.
A stingy Whittell defense kept the Highlanders off the line until the fourth period, when mounting tension spilled over and the Warriors put them at the charity stripe 12 times. The free tosses accounted for nine of the Highlander’s 18 fourth-period points.
“Things got a little bit out of control at the end,” Amaral added.
Whittell (2-20 overall, including 1-6 in division play) remains in contention for a divison tournament berth. The Warriors can potentially secure a postseason berth by beating Hawthorne on Saturday in Zephyr Cove. Game time is 5:30 p.m.
Incline girls dominate second half
In the girls game, Whittell led 11-7 at the conclusion of the first quarter, but the Highlanders outscored them 18-9 in the second.
Wines must have had plenty to say at halftime, and when the buzzer sounded for the second half to begin, Whittell was nowhere to be found.
The Warriors quickly took the court upon emerging from the locker room, but may have wished they’d stayed put as they watched the Highlanders extend their lead to 40-25 heading into the final period.
“We played well through the first two quarters,” Wines added. “But Incline came back out and played a great second half. They play hard every minute of every game, and we knew that coming in.”
Coming out of halftime with renewed zeal and confidence and switching to a man defense helped the Highlanders pull away in the second half.
“We are the better team, but the atmosphere was weird, the time was weird, it took us awhile to get into stride of things,” Incline coach Amanda Levin added. “It took us getting refocused at halftime to win the game.”
Jackie Laurian led Whittell with 15 points. Almost every Highlander scored, with center Kelly O’Connor leading the way with 10 points.