Even before beating rival North Tahoe Friday night, Feb. 9, to end the regular season, the Incline Highlanders boys' basketball team earned maybe a bigger victory.
Senior William Stranzl, who made the 2A All-Northern League first team last year and was also second team All-State, returned from injury after being out for several games.
"We didn't know if he would be back this year," said Highlanders head coach Tim Kelly. "He came back on Friday and led us like he has for the last two years. Having him back makes us very confident in regionals this week."
Incline will head into the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association Class 2A Northern League Boys' Basketball Championships Thursday, Feb. 15, as the No. 5 seed. The Highlanders will play No. 4 Yerington at 8 p.m. at Adobe Middle School in Elko, Nevada.
"We've actually only been at full strength for a handful of games this year due to injury, no excuses, our league has some solid teams but we do believe that finally being at full strength this week makes us as good as anyone in our conference," Kelly said.
Incline jumped all over North Tahoe leading 12-2 after the first period, 26-7 at halftime and 47-19 heading into the final quarter.
Stranzl had 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds and Ian Smith, Jackson Littleton and Liam Nolan-Bowers each had eight points to lead the Highlanders. Nolan-Bowers added eight rebounds and three steals.
Also for Incline (9-16, 6-8 2A Northern), Matthew Cornell hauled in six rebounds and scored five points, Paul Larson scored five points, Zach Pexa had four and Johnny Redfern and Jacob Leoncio each had two.
The Highlanders had their "Snowcoming" crowd going crazy.
"The atmosphere was awesome, the place was packed and our home fans came out big time," Kelly said. "We played a great game defensively. Our two goals were to make them hit challenged shots and not give them any second chance and we totally controlled both these phases of the game. They had a really hard time getting the ball in the basket. Having Will back at point guard for us made our offense click. It was just a great night for Incline basketball. Stranzl was even named Snowcoming King so having him back just changed the feeling of the whole school."
Kelly cleared his bench in the fourth quarter and everybody got to play.
Incline will play Yerington for the third time this season, having lost the first two, 97-94 on, Jan. 6, at home and 49-37, Feb. 6, on the road.
Stranzl played in that first game and was nearly unstoppable scoring 27 points.
If Incline wins, they will face league champion Pershing County.
On the other side of the six-team single elimination bracket is No. 3 Battle Mountain facing No. 6 North Tahoe. The winner will face No. 2 West Wendover.
"We feel like we can win on Thursday," Kelly said. "Pershing County is the No. 1 seed and we would love another shot at them on Friday. Everyone is 0-0 this week and we are all looking to get two wins to qualify for state."