Mount Shata’s Kole Riccomini drives against Foothill’s Chaun Davis on Friday in the CIF Division V title game. The Bears came in 33-1 but fell 78-66 to the Trojans, who captured the school’s second title and first since 1988. (Photo courtesy of David Steutel/MaxPreps)
Even in the face of defeat, the Mount Shasta boys basketball team had a look that impressed the opposing coach.
The Bears had just cut Foothill’s fourth-quarter lead to nine on a pair of Tristan Ellerbe free throws. Two minutes, 28 seconds remained in the CIF Division V title game.
“In my mind I’m thinking ‘Oh shoot,’ because I see that young man’s eyes going big ” said Foothill coach Wesley Davis III pointing out Mount Shasta’s Kaden Riccomini, who’d stuck around to answer more media questions after the Trojans were done with their post-game press junket. “He was going for the moment.”
Riccomini scored a game-high 29 points for Mount Shasta, but that “moment” would not come for the Bears as Foothill created numerous second-chance opportunities with its lengthy and physicality to bring home the school’s second state title, and first since 1998, with a 78-66 win Friday at Golden 1 Center. All playoff coverage is presented by Redding Rancheria.
Yet, as the Trojans sat on the media podium speaking of their legacy, the coach and players stopped to talk about the respect and admiration for their opponent.
“We knew they were tough, hard-nosed guys. When you come from a small community, you wear that like a chip on your shoulder,” Davis said. “They’re proud to say they’re from Mount Shasta and we knew that.
“There’s a reason they’d only lost one game. We knew that coming in. We knew that even if we got up, these young men were going to keep fighting and they did that. It was an awesome basketball game.”
And the coach wasn’t simply offering platitudes because his team was holding the CIF champions trophy, his words were genuine. As were the hugs, dabs and compliments the Trojans gave Riccomini as they filed out to celebrate their first state title since Bill Clinton was president.
True to Davis’ words, the Bears fought for 32 minutes against the Trojans in a battle of similar, yet different programs. Both schools had galvanized community support in the title quest. Foothill had the backing of other Bakersfield schools, something akin to Shasta rooting for Enterprise or West Valley pulling for Anderson in Shasta County. Meanwhile, the entire North State had become Bears fans for the duration of Mount Shasta’s run – eager for another Northern Section team to grab an elusive California crown so we could proclaim “Yes, we can compete up here, too.”
Yet, the similarities for the Trojans and Bears ended there as, under the CIF’s competitive equity model, the schools were polar opposite. Division V Mount Shasta boasts an enrollment of roughly 400 while Division IV Foothill boasts an enrollment of roughly 2,000 to draw from.
The Bears recovered from a quick Foothill start to take a first-quarter lead on Kody Bauman’s jumper as the Bears held an 18-16 edge before starting the second period down 20-18. Mount Shasta nearly played the Trojans even in the second quarter as buckets from Bauman and Kaden Riccomini sandwiched a Kole Riccomini 3-pointer to keep pace as Cesar Valdez and Jaden Phillips each hit from range and Foothill took a 38-35 edge to halftime.
When we took that lead I think we all thought ‘OK, we are in this game and we have a chance,’ ” Kaden Riccomini said.
But the Trojans were simply too long, too relentless – especially on the offensive boards. Foothill pulled down 45 rebounds, 24 on the offensive glass, giving the Trojans second-, third- and sometimes fourth-chance looks.
Near the middle of the third period, Warren Stingley, Foothill’s rebounding machine who pulled down 13 boards on Friday, missed a shot in the paint. He grabbed his own rebound, but missed the putback. He again grabbed that board and was fouled on his third shot attempt. He made one of two from the line.
Two Foothill possessions later, Edward Turner missed a runner from the free-throw line only to have the ball carom off back iron to him for a second-chance floater and a 53-42 Trojans lead.
“The rebounding was a big part of it,” Mount Shasta coach Cliff Blakely said. “They’re a little different than what we’re used to. Their size made it really challenging for our guys on the inside. The athleticism and quickness is a little more than we’re used to.”
Still, the Bears wouldn’t allow the game get out of hand, cutting the Trojans’ 14-point lead to nine entering the fourth quarter.
“I thought there was plenty of time still on the clock and there was a chance,” Blakely said when his team got under double-digits. “But a couple of turnovers hurt real bad and a couple of easy shots, well, not easy shots, but makeable shots that didn’t fall. Would’ve been nice if they went in.”
After Ellerbe’s free throws, Turner and Phillips combined for three Trojan freebies before Nolan Johnson hit a short jumper to cut the lead to 74-64 with 90 seconds left.
“We still knew we were going to play until the very end,” Kaden Riccomini said. “We all knew we wanted to make the most of this.”
Blakely said the loss doesn’t diminish what the Bears accomplished this season – the 33 wins are believed to be a Northern Section record.
“We just came up a little short today,” he said. “But a good year, great year. Great team and a good bunch of guys to work with.”
Foothill 78, Mount Shasta 66
Foothill – 20, 18, 22, 18 – 78
Mount Shasta – 18, 15, 13, 20 – 66
Foothill (24-1) – Davis 2, Valdez 8, Stingley 9, Turner 12, Seales 22, Phillips 25.
Mount Shasta (33-2) – Johnson 2, Snure 4, Ellerbe 8, Bauman 10, Kole Riccomini 13, Kaden Riccomini 29.
3-pointers: Foothill: 3 Phillips, Valdez (2); Mount Shasta: 5 Bauman, Kole Riccomini, Kaden Riccomini (3).
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