PALO CEDRO – The holiday season is usually spent at home around familiar people. That’s not ideal for Foothill – the exact opposite, actually.
The Cougars spend December on the road in the Bay Area and Sacramento testing their skills against upper division opponents, even a nationally ranked squad.
And every year the Cougars return to the North State at a different speed that leaves local teams playing catch up until the playoffs.
Foothill’s next-level play was on display Friday night in the Eastern Athletic League opener with the Cougars outscoring rival Enterprise 19-3 in the third quarter allowing them to pull away for a 63-42 victory at The Cougars’ Palace.
“I think they’re not afraid because they’ve been in those big games,” Foothill coach Bill Elliott said.
Four players scored in double figures for the Cougars (1-0 EAL, 16-2), led by Nick Dore’s double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds off the bench. Josiah Palumbo scored 13 points, Luke Lindsey added 12 and Brandon McCracken scored 11.
Enterprise (0-1 EAL, 11-6) countered with a different approach as Demarreya Lewis-Cooper was the lone Hornets to reach double digits with 23 points. The sophomore point guard fueled a strong Hornet start with 10 points in a 14-4 advantage.
“He was focused before the game and you could just tell he was going to have a big game and that helped us a ton in the beginning,” said Enterprise senior Jermaine Mondaine, who contributed seven points.
Enterprise led 18-12 at the end of the first quarter but that was about the last time the Hornets had any momentum. Foothill opened the second period on a 9-0 run highlighted by Dore’s jumper from the elbow and a pair of Palumbo layups.
Triples from Dore and Hunter Edwards book-ended a Lewis-Cooper 3 later in the period and Foothill led 31-27 at the break.
“We started exactly how we wanted to but couldn’t keep it going,” Mondaine said. “Foothill just didn’t let up and pushed the pedal on us and things just fell apart.”
The Cougars leaned on their defense and their size advantage inside with the 6-foot-8 McCracken and Dore, a powerful 6-2 forward with range. Foothill opened the third on a 13-0 run, winning on the glass and attacking the basket for high-percentage shots.
“We noticed we were obviously bigger than them and can pound inside and that’s what we wanted to do and get easy buckets,” Dore said.
All but one of Foothill’s second-half field goals came within 3 feet of the hoop and Enterprise didn’t have an answer for it. It’s taken some adjustment for Foothill – usually a 3-point shooting team – to get used to feeding the posts. But the Cougars can play to their strengths when needed.
“We saw some mismatches and wanted to go outside-in instead of inside-out,” Elliott said. “Sometimes we can go too fast and think outside-outside-outside and forget we have good kids inside. We ran as good of an offense as we have in awhile when we got the ball into those guys.”
Dore turned a steal into a transition layup and beat the buzzer at the end of the quarter by cleaning up a Lindsey miss to put Foothill ahead 48-30.
Enterprise never got closer than 17 the rest of the way.
Dore with the putback to beat the buzzer at the end of the 3Q and Foothill outscores Enterprise 19-3 in the period.
— ShastaCountySports (@ShastaCoSports) January 11, 2020
Foothill has two wins over its rival in as many chances, one of those is at Enterprise’s Manatowa Gymnasium in the Harlan Carter Invitational final. Mondaine thinks the Hornets’ can be on the cusp of a special run and the Jan. 31 meeting could end up with the opposite result.
“I think our defense has been off the past few games but we have some time to get it locked down and dialed in for the next time we play them,” Mondaine said.
Enterprise (0-1 EAL, 11-6): Lewis-Cooper 23, Ramirez 8, Mondaine 7, Fuller 2, Owen 2.
Foothill (1-0 EAL, 16-2): Dore 16, Palumbo 13, Lindsey 12, McCracken 11, Bekdoo Lewis, Edwards 3.
3-pointers—Enterprise 3: Lewis-Cooper (2), Ramirez (1); Foothill 5: Dore (2), Palumbo (2), Edwards (1).
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