The Meadows boys basketball coach Brian Lang had to give Joseph Epstein a piggyback ride to the locker room Saturday.
Lang’s senior star had given all he had.
Epstein scored a game-high 17 points, but the Mustangs struggled to find consistency on offense and fell 38-33 to Incline in the Class 2A state title game at Orleans Arena.
Epstein scored six points in the first quarter, but rolled his ankle in the first half. He didn’t come off the floor, but he wasn’t quite the same after that, especially in the second half when he was 2-for-12 from the field.
“He played through it the rest of the game, but it was hurting him pretty bad,” Lang said. “It’s a senior. You don’t want to take him out. It’s his last game. We’re going to ride with him.”
The Mustangs led 19-18 at halftime, but managed just four points in the third quarter to allow the Highlanders to take a 28-23 lead.
The Meadows was 2-for-18 from the field in the middle quarters.
“Our defense is usually our offense,” Lang said. “But we gave them some 3s, and it kind of messed with our confidence a little bit. We should have just stuck to the script and taken away those 3s.”
The Mustangs twice pulled within a basket in the fourth quarter, the first time on a 3-pointer by Epstein and the second on a bucket by Obinna Ezeanolue with 2:14 to play that made the score 33-31.
The Mustangs looked to get the ball back inside to the 6-foot-5-inch Ezeanolue down the stretch but couldn’t make the post entry.
“Our guards struggled handling the ball tonight, getting the ball inside to Obinna,” Lang said. “It hurt us. They were putting a little pressure on our guards, and they were fumbling.”
John Redfern scored 13 points to lead Incline (25-6), which hit six 3-pointers.
Ezeanolue had nine points and 15 rebounds for The Meadows (15-10).
“You don’t ever want it to end this way, but I’m proud of my guys,” Lang said. “The adversity we dealt with throughout the season and to be here … they won the region last week. You can’t hold your heads. It’s a bounce of the ball tonight.”
Elijah Jackson beat the overtime buzzer with a 21-foot 3-pointer from the left wing to lift Churchill County to a 57-54 win over Elko in the Class 3A state championship game.
Elko forced overtime on Sean Klekas’ 3-pointer with two seconds left.
Seth Bozzi scored all 17 of his points in the second half and had eight rebounds to help Mineral County win its second Class 1A title in three years with a 62-38 win over Spring Mountain.
Robert McFalls added 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Serpents (31-1), who led 24-23 at halftime but used a 24-9 third-quarter run to pull away.
Josiah Johnson scored 15 of his 17 points in the first half for the Golden Eagles, who were bidding for their second straight title and third in five seasons. Robert Arceneaux added 10 points for Spring Mountain (14-9).