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 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 during the post-game press conference of Mount Shasta’s Kaden Riccomini, who had stuck around to answer more media questions after the Trojans were done. “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 used its length, physicality to create numerous second-chance opportunities in bringing home the school’s second state title 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 talking about their legacy, the coach and players stopped to talk about the respect and admiration they had 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 speaking simply 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 1988.
True to Davis’ words, the Bears fought for 32 minutes against the Trojans in a battle of similar and, yet different. Both schools had galvanized a community in support of their quest for a title. Foothill had the backing of other Bakersfield schools, something akin to Shasta rooting for Enterprise or West Valley pulling for Anderson. Meanwhile, the entire north state had become Bears fans for the duration of Mount Shasta’s run – eager for another Northern Section title to show off like a badge of honor.
Yet under the CIF’s competitive equity model, the Trojans and Bears were dissimilar with the Division IV Foothill boasting and enrollment of roughly 2,000 – more than five times that of the Division V Mount Shasta.
The Bears actually came out early and recovered from a quick Foothill start to take a first-quarter lead on Kody Bauman’s jumper as the Bears led 18-16 before heading into the second period down 20-18. Mount Shasta nearly played the Trojans even in the second quarter as buckets from Kody 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 tries.
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 would miss a runner from the free-throw line only to have the ball hit back iron and ricochet back 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 would not let the game get out of hand, cutting the Trojans’ 14-point lead entering the fourth quarter to nine.
“I thought there was plenty of time still on the clock and there was a chance,” Blakely said when his team cut the lead to nine. “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).