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Chico pressures Shasta into 19 turnovers as Panthers 56-48 road win in EAL opener

Shasta's Dilraj Sahota looks to run against Chico in the second half of the Wolves' 56-48 Eastern Athletic League opening loss to the Panthers. Sahota finished with a game-high 14 points as the Wolves committed 19 turnovers in the game. (Photo by Aaron Williams / Shasta County Sports)

The Shasta boys basketball team committed 19 turnovers on Thursday the Eastern Athletic League opener and Chico Psnuck out of town with a 56-48 win.

The Panthers used a frenetic, suffocating defense and full-court pressure to force 11 giveaways in the opening half and eight more by the Wolves after intermission as Chico held a three-point lead at the break and doubled it as the final buzzer sounded.

“That was the name of the game,” Shasta coach Jordan Freilich said. “Chico came out and played great defense; phenomenal on-ball defense.

“They grinded us out.”

The Panthers’ pace was dictated by senior guard Marvelous Owens and junior point Quentin Thomas, spending most of the night in the pocket of Shasta’s primary ball handlers JT Beasley and Dilraj Sahota.

The Wolves, who looked lackluster in a 52-43 win over West Valley on Tuesday, came out gang-busters, taking a 12-5 edge over the first three minutes of the game. Junior post Jacob Singleton started the scoring with a low-post bucket and Beasley followed with baskets on consecutive possessions off assists from Sahota, who then drained left-corner and right-wing triples as the Wolves led by seen at the 4:40 mark of the first quarter.

But the Panthers regained their sea legs with a deep 3-pointer off the bench from Phoenix Driscoll and used back-to-back steals from Owens and Thomas to cut the Shasta lead to 15-12 at the end of the first quarter.

“Quentin and Marvelous were great,” Chico coach Abe Simmons said. “We want to play hard and defend and thought ‘Hey, let’s see if we can defend and extend the pressure some’ and see what happens and tonight it worked in out favor.”

A Thomas pickpocket led to a layup to start the second period and Owens grabbed a rebound off an Armal Dhinsa miss, taking it coast-to-coast for the first Chico lead at 16-15.

There were be seven lead changes in the second quarter as Chico forced eight turnovers while shooting 8-of-14 from the field in the period.

“They (Thomas and Owens) pressure the ball and it does lead to long shots with long rebounds or turnovers and that helps us offensively when we can run and attack rather than get stuck in a half-court game,” Simmons said.

But when Shasta worked its half-court offense, there was success in the paint as Singleton and Simon Turner scored nine of the Wolves’ 12 second-quarter points.

But the 11 first-half turnovers was a number Freilich had in mind for the whole game, not the first 16 minutes.

“Here’s the deal, the goal is 12 (or fewer),” the Shasta coach said. “If we keep our turnovers near 12 we’ve got a good chance of winning, no matter who we play.”

“They put us in some uncomfortable situations, which they were comfortable with and that caused 19 turnovers.”

Nowhere was this more indicative than during a four-possession after a Sahota triple had given the Wolves a 34-32 lead. Two Chico baskets gave the Panthers a 36-34 lead and the Wolves proceeded to turn the ball over on a traveling call and an errant pass at midcourt that led to a foul on Thomas as he went for a layup  where he made the back end of two free throws. On the next Shasta two possessions, the Wolves again turned it over near the jump circle and then the hosts got two looks in the paint, both missed before the rebound was stripped away by Owens near the elbow.

“Marvelous is a new addition for them and that’s the catalyst,” Freilich said. “He’s a freak athlete and that was on display.”

The Panthers took a 41-38 lead into the final period as Shasta missed its first five shots from the field before Turner got one to drop in the paint plus the foul to cut the lead to 48-41 after the missed and-one free throw.

But Wolves could piggyback on that and it was the closest they would be as Chico bumped the lead to nine at points in the final minutes.

Shasta turns its attention to a Tuesday road game against Red Bluff before a Thursday game at cross-town rival Enterprise. The Panthers host Enterprise on Tuesday before hosting their rival Pleasant Valley on Thursday.

Chico -12-18-11-15-56
Shasta – 15-12-11-10-48
Panthers (10-6, 1-0 EAL) – Padilla 3, James 4, Schaefer 7, Del Carlo 7, Owens 10, Driscoll 12, Thomas 13
Wolves (13-6, 0-1 EAL) – Dhinsa 2, Weaver 3, Beasley 6, Singleton 11, Turner 12, Sahota 14
3-pointers – CHS – 4: Driscoll, Padilla, Schaefer (2); SHS – 6: Weaver, Turner, Sahota (4).

Aaron Williams has been involved in the North State sports scene for nearly two decades. He spent eight years as the Sports Editor for the local newspaper and another four more as the voice of high school football on the radio. Williams has coached various sports at the high school level over the past decade, most recently at Shasta High, and is also the public address announcer for the Shasta College football and basketball teams.

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