Winning teams may have the ability to score at will or play stingy defense. But dominant teams control the pace of the game.
Foothill surged to another suffocating effort Friday night, jumping ahead early on host Shasta and running away with a 68-54 Eastern Athletic League contest at Harlan Carter Gymnasium for its 10th straight win, seven by double-digits.
The Cougars (5-0 EAL, 21-2) ran through the first wave of EAL play with little resistance. And the pressure of carrying on the winning ways hasn’t shown any signs of affecting their mentality.
“We know that we solidified ourselves as the best team in the section right now but that just means teams are gunning for us and they’re going to play their best every night so we have to be ready and on top of it,” said Foothill senior Bekdoo Lewis.
Lewis and fellow senior guard Luke Lindsey each registered 17 points while center Brandon McCracken put up 12 points and nine rebounds. Combining the inside presence of the 6-foot-8 McCracken and forward Nick Dore, the outside shooting of Lewis, Lindsey and Hunter Edwards, and the quickness and confidence of Josiah Palumbo and Foothill has a recipe that can’t be beat in the North State.
“The scary thing is I really think we can get better,” Foothill coach Bill Elliott said. “Some times we get going a little too fast and it’s like gambling, you get ahead and you want more. We’re still learning how to playing with a lead.”
Shasta (1-4 EAL, 14-9) scored the first two buckets of the game, resulting in Elliott calling a timeout 39 seconds in. Foothill answered with a 9-0 run, going in the block twice to McCracken to turn the game in the Cougars’ favor for good.
Lindsey scored five points in the final 15 seconds of the opening period, banking a 2-footer and then grabbing a loose ball and taking it the other way for a running 3-pointer to beat the buzzer for a 21-12 advantage.
Simon Turner got a bucket to open the second but Foothill got points from four different players on another 9-0 run. McCracken cleaned up a miss inside, Palumbo scored twice on transition layups and Lewis attacked inside. In less than five minutes, Foothill turned a four-point lead into a 30-14 game.
“I think they manage the tempo better than any team in our league right now,” Shasta coach Jordan Freilich said. “Everyone has a plan to match that tempo but you can’t sustain it. They run their stuff and play the full 32 minutes and seem to only have to worry about themselves.”
Foothill led 32-23 at half and Lindsey and Edwards hit back-to-back 3-pointers to open the third quarter. Shasta, which had a void in the paint with senior forward Jacob Singleton out with an illness, never cut the deficit back to single digits the rest of the way.
Every time Shasta had a sliver of momentum, Foothill halted it. Shasta didn’t make more than two consecutive field goals in the second half and fell behind by 20 to open the fourth quarter.
“As hard as we play, we kind of wear teams out a little bit because they have to match our intensity and it’s usually early in the game,” Elliott said. “The second half we’re still going strong.”
Shasta had a burst with back-to-back and-1s from Dilraj Sahota and JT Beasley for six straight points – its largest run of the game.
But Lewis canned a corner 3 and later finished a behind-the-back pass from Lindsey in transition for a layup to completely put the game out of reach.
Beasley scored 16 points for Shasta, Sahota had 12 and Turner finished with 11. The Wolves are still searching for consistency, Freilich said. That’s a tough issue to solve with the playoffs only three weeks away.
“This is a pretty good league and pretty good isn’t going to do it for us,” Freilich said. “We don’t want to be pretty good. It’s time to be better than that.”
Foothill (5-0 EAL, 21-2): Lewis 17, Lindsey 17, McCracken 12, Palumbo 7, Edwards 6, Dore 4, Sisneros 2, Schmitt 2, Clark 1.
Shasta (1-4 EAL, 14-9): Beasley 16, Sahota 12, Turner 11, Dhinsa 9, Weaver 3, McClurg 3.
3-pointers–Foothill 6: Lindsey (3), Edwards (2), Lewis (1); Shasta 6: Turner (2), Dhinsa (1), Beasley (1), McClurg (1), Weaver (1).
Team EAL, Overall
Foothill 5-0, 21-2
PV 4-1, 14-8
Chico 3-2, 12-8
Shasta 1-4, 14-9
Enterprise 1-4, 12-10
Red Bluff 1-4, 5-17
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