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Knights still alive in playoff hunt after 78-75 home win over Lassen

Shasta College's women's basketball team, pictured earlier this season, beat Lassen College 78-75 Saturday in the Sierra Pacific Industries Women's College Game of the Week. (Photo by Mike Daly/Shasta County Sports)

In an effort to stay alive in the state playoff race, Shasta College answered the bell with a thrilling 78-75 home win over Lassen College Saturday in the Sierra Pacific Industries Women’s College Game of the Week.

Leading by one, Riley Wallen dribbled the ball off her foot into the hands of the Cougars, who took it the other way for a transition layup with 15.5 seconds left. Jenna Wallace was blocked with eight seconds remaining but Wallen found her under the hoop for a layup on the ensuing inbound play to go up 76-75 with 6.2 on the clock.

Lassen (4-5 GVC, 19-8) tried to work it inside but threw the ball out of bounds on the baseline and fouled Wallen with 0.1 left. Wallen sank both free throws to avenge a 91-47 beating on Jan. 29 for the Knights’ second-worst loss of the year.

“Going into it we knew it was the last home game so we wanted to finish off strong,” said Wallen who scored 23 points. “Toward the end we wanted to put the dagger in the heart and win.”

Video by Tracy Holmes/Shasta County Sports

Shasta (2-7 GVC, 14-12) has back-to-back Golden Valley Conference victories after losing seven straight. One of those defeats was to Lassen, which entered the week ranked 10th in the regional rankings. A win over two higher ranked opponents coupled with a stellar preseason slate might be enough to get the Knights into the playoffs as an at large qualifier, Shasta coach Jerry Brown said.

“If the season ended today we would be in but we need some help; American River is close to us right now,” Brown said. “This gives us more of a chance.”

It wouldn’t have been possible without Shasta’s hot start fueled by Megan Collins and Kali Cummings. The duo combined for five 3s and each scored 11 first-quarter points to help Shasta lead 25-17 after one.

The Knights continued to pepper the Cougars’ zone in the second as Wallen buried a trio of treys and Collins added another, building a 36-23 lead early in the second. But when Lassen switched to man-to-man defense, the Knights couldn’t counter and watched its double-digit lead get erased to trail 44-43 at half.

“We spent time preparing for that zone because it hurt us the first time, and we picked it apart right away,” Brown said. “They went to man and we went brain dead.”

Lassen put together an 18-0 run that lasted nearly 10 minutes from the mid-point in the second period to halfway through the third. Despite trailing by as many as 12, the Knights chipped away to stay in it. Wallen scored six points during Shasta’s 9-0 run to close out the third as Collins dropped in a fastbreak layup just before the buzzer to regain the lead 63-61.

“They could have folded and I was on them about not giving me the effort that I wanted and expect,” Brown said. “They snapped out of it.”

Wallace’s 3 was answered by a Lassen bucket in the paint but it was the only points the Cougars would score for nearly 7 minutes, turning the ball over five times during that stretch. Wallen had a pair of putbacks to extend Shasta’s lead to eight at 71-63 but Lassen came back to make it one possession game on a steal off the full-court press.

Despite Collins fouling out with 5:01 left in the game, Gabby Rosales filled in at point guard to keep the Knights’ offense alive. She split a pair of foul shots and Wallace made a runner with 1:00 left to make it 74-71.

Lassen’s Rionna Haymon dropped the inside bucket with 35 seconds left to cut it to one. After Wallen lost the ball the Knights didn’t panic despite trailing in the final seconds. Wallace’s go-ahead bucket with 8 ticks left was followed by Wallen’s game-sealing free throws helped the Knights to their first back-to-back wins since Dec. 28-29.

“Usually when teams start losing you think they’re going to give up but we weren’t ready to do that,” Wallen said.

Collins scored a game-high 27 points while Cummings finished with 14 points.

Shasta heads to Redwoods on Wednesday to close out the regular season.

Shasta 78, Lassen 75
Lassen 17-27-17-14—75
Shasta 25-18-20-13—78
Lassen (4-5 GVC, 19-8): Green 22, Harris 20, Haymon 15, Wynn 11, Aonga 4, Holy 3.
Shasta (2-7 GVC, 14-12): Collins 27, Wallen 23, Cummings 14, Wallace 10, Rosales 2, Larson 2.
3-pointers—Lassen 7 (Green 4, Wynn 2, Harris); Shasta 10 (Collins 3, Cummings 3, Wallen 3, Wallace).

Team GVC, Overall
Redwoods 7-2, 19-5
Butte 7-2, 21-6
Lassen 4-5, 19-8
Siskiyous 4-5, 16-11
Feather River 3-6, 12-14
Shasta 2-7, 14-12

T.J. is a national-award winning journalist passionate about local news and telling the story no one else knows about. He’s roamed sidelines, baselines and bleachers in the North State since 2010 and is a content producer from sunup to sundown. Sports are a hobby he shares with his wife Tracy where they’ve spent many dates around a field or court of some sort.

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