PALO CEDRO – All season, Foothill entered every game in the Northern Section as the favorite.
When the state tournament rolls around, the Cougars sink back to level playing ground, especially when they’re given a double-digit seed for the third year in a row.
The disrespect doesn’t ruin their focus or preparation.
“It doesn’t change anything,” said Foothill senior Luke Lindsey. “We have to keep playing no matter what.”
No. 11 Foothill used a 9-1 run early in the fourth quarter to get separation and down visiting No. 14 Sequoia of Redwood City 67-58 Thursday night in the CIF Northern California Division III quarterfinal at the Cougars’ Palace. All playoff coverage is sponsored by Redding Rancheria.
Foothill (27-5) makes that back-to-back seasons with a pair of state playoff wins, send the Cougars to Saturday’s NorCal semifinal at No. 7 Carmel – a 59-42 upset winner of No. 2 St. Ignatius. But playing at home in the state playoffs for the first time since 2015 was a treat.
“It’s really special to make this tournament, then to win and then to win at home is even more special,” Foothill coach Bill Elliott said.
Video by Tracy Holmes/Shasta County Sports
Foothill upset No. 6 Palma on Tuesday with a season-high 62 percent shooting from the floor and that offensive explosion carried over against Sequoia (18-12), the Central Coast Section Division I runner-up. The Cougars made six of their first seven shots – three from Lindsey – to go ahead 13-7. The lead stretched to 22-11 later in the period with the Cougars benefiting from Josiah Palumbo creating with his speed and vision, including a behind-the-head dish to Bekdoo Lewis in transition to cap a 9-0 run.
As much as the Cougars poured it on, the Ravens (18-12) found answers with the sharpshooting duo of Sam Schult and Gabe Munguia. Schult scored 16 of his team-best 23 points in the first half. Foothill led 25-23 after the opening quarter and saw its lead jump to five on Lewis’ corner 3.
“This is the intensity of a home state game,” said Lewis, who scored 16 points. “We were playing at our highest level tonight.”
But Schult’s back-to-back buckets from downtown tied it at 31. Palumbo later dropped in a 3 in front of the Sequoia bench and Lewis finished off a give-and-go layup in transition on Palumbo’s dime. Lindsey’s shot-clock beating bucket gave Foothill a 40-35 edge and put Foothill at 50 percent shooting from the floor.
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“We kept playing as a team the whole time; no one was selfish, we all took open shots and gave it off when we were guarded,” Lindsey said.
Foothill had four players in double figures with Lindsey and Palumbo each scoring 18 while Brandon McCracken followed Lewis’ 16 with 11 points of his own. It was the Cougars’ ability to share the ball that kept them in front.
Hunter Edwards got in on the scoring on a feed from Lindsey, Lewis drew two defenders while attacking the rim to drop it off to McCracken for an easy deuce and Lindsey drove the baseline with a reverse layup. Palumbo was back at work with an acrobatic layup followed by three free throws and Nick Dore’s putback in the final second of the third kept Foothill ahead eight entering the final stanza.
“These are my brothers, I’ve been playing with them since I was a little kid and we just have that connection on the court,” Lewis said. “Coach said we need our best players to be the best players in the game and I couldn’t be more proud of my teammates.”
Daniel Duran cut the deficit to six right away in the fourth but Foothill’s confidence grew behind an intense home crowd. Palumbo scored in transition, Lindsey knocked down a downtown jumper and crisp ball movement between Palumbo and Edwards beat the zone and set up McCracken inside to push the lead to 14 at 62-48.
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After combining for six 3-pointers in the first half, Schult and Manguia never got comfortable after the break. Foothill held them to one combined field goal in the fourth quarter on Schult’s and-1 basket in the paint with 4:43 to go.
“We did a much better job hedging out,” Elliott said. “We knew they were a perimeter-orientated team and once we stopped the 3-ball from falling we got a lead and pushed from there.”
Sequoia trimmed the lead to eight, taking advantage of three Foothill turnovers in a span of 18 seconds. But Lindsey found McCracken cutting to the hoop on an inbound play to push the lead to 10 with 59 seconds left and Sequoia dumped its bench after failing to score on the following possession.
Foothill heads to Carmel for with a trip to the NorCal finals on the line. The Cougars fell in double overtime in last year’s state’s Elite Eight. The nucleus that team is back and the Cougars understand the rare opportunity they have in front of them.
“We want to go at their throats when we play away,” Lewis said. “It’s going to take a whole lot of heart.”
Foothill 67, Sequoia 58
#14 Sequoia 23-12-10-13—58
#11 Foothill 25-15-13-14—67
Sequoia (18-12): Schult 23, Nice 7, Duran 7, Kirkpatrick 6, Leathers 6, Munguia 6, Sato 3.
Foothill (27-5): Palumbo 18, Lindsey 18, Lewis 16, McCracken 11, Edwards 2, Dore 2.
3-pointeres—Sequoia 8 (Schult 4, Manguia 2, Nice, Sato); Foothill 5 (Palumbo 2, Lindsey 2, Lewis)
CIF State Scores — Thursday
D-III: #11 Foothill 67, #14 Sequoia 58
D-III: #16 Wood 56, #8 Pleasant Valley 50
D-V: #3 San Domenico 68, #6 Gridley 55
D-V: #1 Pierce 56, #9 Calaveras 50
D-IV: #5 Pleasant Valley 37, #4 Mills 36
D-V: #1 West Valley 54, #8 Portola 47
D-V: #4 U-Prep 53, #5 Calaveras 48
D-V: #3 Monte Vista Chr. 47, #6 Gridley 39
Saturday CIF NorCal Semis
D3: #11 Foothill at #7 Carmel
D5: #5 Eastside Prep at #1 Pierce
D6: #3 Fall River at #2 Ripon Chr
D6: #4 Ferndale at #1 Weed
D4: #5 PV at #1 Colfax
D5: #4 U-Prep at #1 West Valley
D6: #3 Forest Lake Chr. at #2 Redding Chr.
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- UPDATE: CIF takes wait-and-see approach with canceling spring season; schools remain closed into April
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