The Mount Shasta boys basketball team poses after its 80-56 Northern California Division V championship win over No. 2 Dinuba on Tuesday. The Bears earned a trip to the D-V state title game on Friday against Southern California No. 1 seed Foothill of Bakersfield. (Photo by Aaron Williams / Shasta County Sports)
Coming into the 2018-19 season Mount Shasta coach Cliff Blakely wanted his team to win one state playoff game. Now, Blakely wants his team to win one more.
The Bears, who hadn’t won a NorCal game in the two previous years, won their fourth Northern California Division V playoff game and punched their ticket to the state finals on Friday with an 80-56 win over second-seeded Dinuba in a stuffed Mount Shasta gymnasium. All playoff coverage is presented by Redding Rancheria.
The Bears head to Sacramento on Friday at 33-1 on the season to face Southern California No. 1 Foothill (Bakersfield), not having lost to a California team this season as the lone loss was to Oregon’s Klamath Union on Dec. 7.
“I did not think this (a trip to the state finals) was in the cards,” the coach said of the team’s mindset from Summer League. “The goal was to get to the state tournament and win one game. (But) we wanna win it. We’re not satisfied yet.”
In order to secure their trip to the Golden 1 Center, the Bears had to withstand a barrage of first-quarter 3-pointers from Dinuba junior guard Josh Magana and wait for their 19-2 third-quarter run that put the game out of reach.
Magana opened the game with a triple from the left corner and followed it with a right-wing trey less than 30 seconds later as the Emperors jumped to a quick 6-2 lead.
Buckets by Kody Bauman and Kole Ricomini knotted the score at 6, but every time the Bears would make a run Magana answered.
“We weren’t sure they were going to come out like that, so it was a little eye-opener for us,” Kaden Ricomini said.
Magana went on a personal 9-0 run over a minute stretch in the first period, hitting on three of four Dinuba possessions to put the Emperors up 18-13 with under three to play in the quarter. Kole Ricomini sparked the Bears with two straight buckets, one off an assist from brother Kaden, before the Issak Flores hit two free throws and Magana ended his scoring flurry with a 3-ball right before buzzer giving Dinuba a 23-17 lead.
“We have a couple of guys that can score it and Magana got going for us,” Dinuba coach Jeff Schofield said. “Once he hits a couple, he’s going to hit a few more. He was getting looks and making the most of it.”
But as hot as Magana was, Blakely knew it was unlikely the Emperors keep filling it all night.
“All year we’ve been thinking that teams who need 3s to stay with us is a good thing for us,” the Bears coach said. “At some point they’re not going to go in and it happened again tonight.”
The Emperors cooled off in the second period, connecting on 4-of-12 field goals in the second period as Mount Shasta got even at 28 with one of two freebies from Jett Snure, who had 12 points on the night as other big Bauman battled foul trouble. The Bears took a 30-28 lead on Tristan Ellerbe’s baseline drive. Nolan Johnson drained a corner 3, Ellerbe added a free throw and Kaden Ricomini added an 8-footer as the Bears went to the break up 36-33.
“Coach saw it right away and told us, ‘OK, these are the shooters, make sure you get a hand up,’ ” Kaden Ricomini said, “and we made sure they were marked up. We knew that if we could get a hand up they wouldn’t continue to shoot like that.”
The Emperors started the second half with a Luke Rodriguez 3-pointer and Sebastian Garza basket to tied the game at 38, but momentum was short-lived as Kaden Ricomini hit a triple from the right wing to put the Bears up 41-38, a lead they would not relinquish.
After an acrobatic, scoop-shot layup by Kole Ricomini put Mount Shasta up 45-38, Rodriguez hit a 3-ball from the top of the key to pull Dinuba within four with 3:12 to play in the third period. It was the last points the Emperors would score for two minutes and 45 seconds as Mount Shasta went on a 19-2 run to end the quarter.
Along the way, Kaden Ricomini scored 11 points on a trio of treys – including a quarter-ending buzzer-beater – four other Bears scored and Dinuba burned through three timeouts in a 90-second span.
“It was a real frenzy for a while,” Blakely said. “The energy level picked up after a couple of those steals and I think Kaden hit a 3-ball down here that really woke us up.”
Dinuba coach Schofield said no matter what the Emperors did it couldn’t stop the Bears’ momentum.
“(We were) trying to keep our composure and not get too rattled against a great home crowd,” he said. (We wanted to) focus on making smart plays and solid plays but that didn’t seem to work.”
Having outscored Dinuba 28-10 in the third quarter and with a 21-point edge heading into the final eight minutes of play, Kaden Ricomini said he and his teammates knew they were on the verge of a trip to play for a state title.
“We felt the tipping point once we got up (in the third quarter),” he said.
But the Bears kept the pressure on until the reserves hit the floor with just under two minutes to play as Kole Ricomini took over and scored eight of his game-high 26 points in the final period.
And now the Bears look for that one – more – state playoff win Blakely talked about.
No. 2 Dinuba 56, No. 1 Mount Shasta 80
Dinuba – 23, 10, 10, 13 – 56
Mount Shasta – 17, 19, 28, 16 – 80
Dinuba (27-9) – E. Flores 2, I. Flores 3, Garza 4, Calderon 4, J. Rodriguez 5, L. Rodriguez 16, Magana 22.
Mount Shasta (33-1) – May 2, Bauman 4, Ellerbe 8, Johnson 8, Snure 12, Kaden Ricomini 20, Kole Ricomini 26.
3-pointers – Dinuba: 11 J. Rodriguez, L. Rodriguez (4), Magana (6); Mount Shasta: 8 Kole Ricomini, Ellerbe, Johnson (2), Kaden Ricomini (4)
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