Shasta College freshman Jalen Evans goes up for a dunk in the loss to Yuba College Saturday night in the Shasta College Crossover. (Photo by T.J. Holmes/Shasta County Sports)
For more than two decades, Kele Fitzhugh has been pushing the Shasta College men’s basketball team to work hard and the success will come.
Saturday’s 75-56 home loss to Yuba College in the final game of the Shasta College Crossover and the Sierra Pacific Industries Men’s College Game of the Week might not show the Knights are at the point where the results are in their favor, but Fitzhugh’s message to stay the course remains the same.
A brutal preseason slate against some of the top teams in the state has left Shasta at 2-13 heading into its Golden Valley Conference opener at College of the Redwoods on Saturday. Shasta may be a victim of its own schedule but now it’s a matter of learning from the preseason.
“I like playing a tough schedule so they can see what it’s like and what they have to do to play this way,” Fitzhugh said. “One thing about it is if it breaks you or not. Whether it takes your confidence away and whether it takes your heart away.
“I’ve never preached winning, I’ve preached development. And when you do that, winning follows.”
Fitzhugh’s all-freshman (and one sophomore) group has had to gain experience on the fly this season. The Knights limp into conference play with eight straight losses, seven of which came by double digits.
“We’ve showed glimpses of things but we’re not consistent with our efforts or our execution and that’s a maturity thing,” Fitzhugh said.
Against Yuba (11-3), Shasta went more than five minutes without a point and had six points through the first eight minutes. Once the Knights started pushing the tempo, they scored in transition, one bucket from an emphatic dunk from Jalen Evans. Alessandro Guzzon scored seven of the Knights’ final nine points of the half to trail 31-25.
Zach Thompson knocked down a 3 coming out of the break to get the Knights within three but Yuba slowly pulled away before Isaiah Bates took over with back to back layups to fuel a 9-2 run.
Michael Plunkitt did his best to keep it within a 10-point game with a layup and an and-1 bucket but Yuba turned to Bates again to spark a 16-4 run across nearly six minutes to put the game out of reach.
Bates started it with a reverse layup and a dynamic post move for a dunk and Brandon Recek finished it off by burying the 49ers’ only 3 of the second half to lead 79-48 with about 3 minutes remaining.
“Yuba did a good job at being patient and running their stuff and set up their athletic ability well, changed their angles and moved the ball,” Fitzhugh said.
Bates finished with a game-high 20 points while Guzzon paced Shasta with 16 points and Plunkitt ended with nine points.
With the GVC games looming, Fitzhugh has seen from experience how the season can turn around once the calendar year flips over.
“It’s tough to say when you’re 2-13 and vulnerable but I’ve been there before and ended up winning the conference,” Fitzhugh said.
Yuba 75, Shasta 56
Yuba (11-3): Bates 20, Greenwood 14, Wharry 10, Ramirez 9, James 8, Recek 8, Judson 6.
Shasta (2-13): Guzzon 16, Plunkitt 9, Thompson 7, Evans 7, Guinn 5, Culmer 5, Chao 4, Louis-Charles 2, Busta 1.
3-pointers—Yuba 3 (Bates 1, James 1, Judson 1); Shasta 6 (Guzzon 2, Guinn 1, Thompson 1, Evans 1, Culmer 1).