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Foothill sets early pace, storms past PV 70-57 in EAL clash

Foothill High's Josiah Palumbo, pictured during the Harlan Carter at Enterprise High School in December, scored a game-high 22 points in the win over Pleasant Valley Tuesday night. (FILE -- Mike Daly/Shasta County Sports)

CHICO — Josiah Palumbo had never won at Pleasant Valley’s Varley Gym before Tuesday.

It was a long time coming for the Foothill boys basketball team, since Feb. 3, 2012, to be exact — well before Palumbo and his five senior teammates stepped on the court in Cougars uniforms for the first time.

But on Tuesday, Foothill, widely regarded as the team to beat in the upper-echelon of the Northern Section, defeated Pleasant Valley 70-57 with four seniors, led by Palumbo’s 22 points, reaching double-digits.

“This is my first win here, my first win ever at PV,” Palumbo said. “As seniors, this is one of our first wins ever at PV that I can remember, and it just means so much.”

Though as much as Foothill (17-2, 2-0 Eastern Athletic League) wanted to make a statement at PV, the Cougars were just as quick to think about the rematch, coming Feb. 4 in Palo Cedro. The two teams split a pair of regular-season meetings last year before PV claimed the section Division III championship 43-41, in a game Foothill led by seven at halftime.

“Next time we play them, we’ll be playing them at home,” Palumbo said. “We don’t want to be too cocky or arrogant, and we’ll just be prepared for them next time. This could just be a slump game for them, and we don’t want them thinking they got any life next time that we play them.”

PV showed some sign of life, trailing 41-30 at halftime, but were unable to get on track during a nine-point third quarter.

Midway through the quarter, after a Grant Garretson jumper trimmed PV’s deficit to 45-34, Foothill’s 6-foot-8 center Brandon McCracken scored a pair of baskets in the paint created by his own offensive rebounds.

Then, after Palumbo and Ned Joyce traded 3-pointers for their respective teams, another Palumbo 3-pointer — his sixth of the night — gave the Cougars a 55-39 lead with 1 minute, 55 seconds left in the quarter.

“I just thought they dictated the tempo right from the get-go,” PV head coach Tim Keating said.

“I don’t know if we were due, but defensively, we just weren’t ready to play fast. That’s what Foothill did. They used their big man really well, and unfortunately, Palumbo shot the ball really well. We didn’t expect him to shoot as well as he did off the dribble, but he did. You got to give him credit.”

By the end of the third quarter, the Cougars owned a commanding 57-39 lead.

“In halftime, although we were only up 11, I was telling the boys, ‘Hey, this happened last year. We were up three, they came back (and) boom. All of a sudden we were down,'” Palumbo said. “They’re a great third-quarter team. We just had to match them.”

The Vikings (11-7, 1-1) jumped ahead 8-2 in the first two minutes of the game with 3-pointers from Aaron Gomez and Joyce, before Joyce added a layup. The Cougars, however, responded on a 9-1 run, and after Joyce was sent to the bench with his second foul, the Vikings’ offense was playing catch-up without their starting point guard.

PV trailed 21-18 after the opening quarter, then quickly faced an eight-point hole following a Luke Lindsey layup and Palumbo 3-ball. PV’s Jake Kremer created a 7-0 run of his own, starting with a 3-pointer, before a pair of layups in a 15-second span, the second one created by a Garretson steal in the backcourt to trail just 26-25 two minutes into the quarter.

Foothill reclaimed an eight-point advantage less than three minutes later, and a Lindsey 3-pointer put the Cougars up 36-25 with 3:03 left in the half.

“The big key was Ned got two quick fouls in the first quarter and that changed the whole dynamic of the game,” Keating said.

Lindsey had 12 points, McCracken posted 11 and Bekdoo Lewis tallied 13.

Joyce finished with a team-high 14 points for PV and Kremer added 13.

PV, which entered Tuesday’s game having won seven of its previous eight games, most recently, a 75-37 blowout over University Prep last Saturday, will have to regroup quickly for Thursday’s game at Chico High. The Panthers (11-6, 2-0) won their second straight EAL game Tuesday in a 56-55 thriller over Enterprise.

“The only consolation — it’s early in the year and hopefully we can learn from this, recover and get better as a team,” Keating said. “But unfortunately, we have Chico High on Thursday at their place and they’re playing at a high level. And that’s an experienced team. It’s the same team that was on the court last year. We’ll be ready — as best we can — but it will be a mental challenge for us.”

Foothill 70, Pleasant Valley 57
Foothill 21-20-16-13—70
PV 18-12-9-18—57
Foothill — Palumbo 22, Lewis 13, Lindsey 12, McCracken 11, Edwards 6, Jensen 4, Dore 2.
Pleasant Valley — Joyce 14, Kremer 13, Mitchell 11, Babcock 6, Garretson 5, Gomez 4, Meng 2, Keating 2.
3-point goals — Foothill 10 (Palumbo 6, Edwards 2, Lindsey, Jensen), Pleasant Valley 6 (Joyce 3, Babcock 2, Kremer).

Will Denner is a sports reporter at the Chico Enterprise-Record. A native of Portland, Oregon, Will graduated from the University of Oregon in 2016.

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