INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — The Highlanders magical ride to a state basketball championship was remembered and honored last week during a ceremony in the Incline High School gymnasium.
Team captains, seniors Ian Smith and Liam Nolan-Bowers, were given special recognition for signing their National Letters of Intent to further pursue education and basketball careers in college.
“It was a magical night,” said Incline head coach Tim Kelly.
The evening kicked off by honoring best friends Smith and Nolan-Bowers.
Smith is headed all the way across the country to attend the College of Mount Saint Vincent, a division III school in the Bronx, New York.
“It was really a good time because it showed all the hard work that I put in paid off,” Smith said. “It was also great to sign with one of my best friends.”
Smith was a three-year varsity starter for the Highlanders and was named the most valuable player this year at the state tournament. He also made first team All-State and first-team All-Northern League.
As for traveling across the country, Smith is excited for a change of scenery.
“I’m really excited to go to New York and experience something different,” He said.
Nolan-Bowers was also a three-year varsity starter and he is headed to Pacific University, a division school III in Forest Grove, Oregon. He is undecided on his major but it thinking sports medicine or sports management.
Nolan-Bowers was the Northern Nevada defensive player of the player and made first team All-State and first team All-League.
“It has been a goal of mine to play college basketball so to know I will be playing for four more years is great,” Nolan-Bowers said. “But more importantly, I am thankful that I made my mom proud being a first generation college student.”
Following the letter signings, a state championship banner was raised into the gym rafters where it will forever commemorate the 2018-19 Highlanders.
The Highlanders finished the season on a 15-game winning streak and ended up 25-6 overall and 15-1 in the Northern League to earn a co-championship.
Along with the banner came the individual gift that all players covet, state championship rings.
The rings were handed out to freshmen Brody Thralls and TT Valosek, sophomore Brad Ry, juniors Brayden Hock, Emerson Fleming and Tyler Knight and seniors Bennett Welco, Paul Larson, Jacob Leoncio, Parker Fontecchio, Cooper Lyons, Johnny Redfern, Matthew Cornell, Nolan-Bowers, Smith and coaches Mario Ornelas, Tony Valosek, Mike Williams and Kelly.
On the ring is the year of the title, names of players, jersey numbers and the team motto of having faith and being a family.
The Lady Highlanders, who finished runners-up in the state tournament were also recognized for their great season.
Rob Green was the event emcee.
After the celebration it was time for hoops. The TK All-Stars beat the Incline seniors 81-78 and Kelly said the key shot was made by his second grade son, JP, a 3-pointer off an assist from his dad.
The Seniors missed a 3-point attempt at the buzzer.