Caden Cushman, seen in a file photo, helped No. 4 Shasta to a 91-64 win over Chico on Friday in the Northern Section Division III playoffs. The Wolves travel to PV on Wednesday to take on the top-seeded Vikings in the semifinals. (Photo by Mike Daly / Shasta County Sports)
There were two quintessential moments – one in each half – in the Shasta boys basketball team’s 91-64 Northern Section Division III playoff win over Chico on Friday night at Harlan Carter Gym. All playoff coverage is presented by Redding Rancheria.
The first-half play happened on the fourth-seeded Wolves’ second possession of the second quarter. Chico, trailing 29-14 after one period, started the quarter with the ball. Each team missed a shot before Shasta defensive pressure forced a Panther turnover and an opportunity for the home team to run.
The outlet went to Dilraj Sahota, who dribbled upcourt, slightly to the left of the key as three Chico players looked to stop the junior near the free throw line. On the wing, senior Caden Cushman was running the floor on the right and made a cut to the basket as the Chico defenders collapsed on Sahota, who sidearmed a pass to Cushman. The pass split the three defenders, perhaps even five-holing the final Panthers and hit Cushman in stride for a sweet layup and 31-14 lead.
“I saw Cushman out of the corner of my eye cutting and thought ‘I need to get him the ball because he’s trying hard to get open’ and he was open,” Sahota said. “When I let it go and it went between one defender I knew it was going to be good.
“We’re at our best when we’re running.”
The second-half play happened much the same as the first. Chico’s Phoenix Driscoll missed a shot, Shasta’s Armal Dhinsa rebounded and hit Sahota on the outlet. The recipient of the dime this time was junior JT Beasley, who layed the ball in for a 69-43 with just over a minute left in the third period of a game the Wolves were never in danger of losing from opening tip to final buzzer.
Beasley led the Wolves with 24 points, Sahota added 18, Cushman 15 and Dhinsa 11.
Up next for the Wolves is a third crack at Pleasant Valley, the No. 1 seed, at Varley Gym on Wednesday.
“I think we’re going to have a good a shot as anyone and all roads go through PV,” Shasta coach Jordan Freilich said. “They’re the state champion and we’re lucky to be in the spot and have a shot at them.”
But before the Wolves could get a date with PV, they had to get past a young Chico team that starts four sophomores.
After pouncing to the 29-14 first quarter lead, Shasta outscored the Panthers 18-14 to head into intermission up 47-28. In the second period, the Wolves were 6-of-15 from the field including transition buckets off assists from Sahota (twice) and Caden Turner, who found Beasley for an open triple late in the period.
After the break, the Wolves kept running as everyone was getting in on the act as post Simon Turner found Dhinsa for a bucket midway through the period for a 62-38 lead.
“That’s where, if you want to be good in transition you have to be unselfish,” Freilich said. “You run the floor and you know the ball is going to get out to you. No one is going to run the floor if they know it’s going to stick.”
Six Wolves had multiple assists, led by Caden Turner’s eight, while Beasley, Cushman and Sahota each had five. Dhinsa dished out four assists and James Weaver had two dimes.
“When the ball moves and you run hard and get it and finish, that’s fun basketball,” Freilich said. “As a player, I’d want to be on that team.”
Sahota’s two free throws and coast-to-coast layup pushed the Wolves’ lead to 75-48 a minute in and gave a chance for Shasta’s bench to get substantial time in the period.
The Wolves lost be 10 to PV at home on Jan. 15 and by 20 at PV on Feb. 1. The home game saw the Wolves pull within one at the end of the third period before being unable to take the lead and get over the hump.
The winner of Wednesday’s game takes on the winner of No. 3 Enterprise and No. 2 Foothill, who play at the Cougars’ Palace on Wednesday for a section-title shot on Saturday at Shasta College.
Chico 14, 14, 20, 16 – 64
Shasta – 29, 18, 22, 22 – 91
Chico – Driscoll 2, Butterfield 3, James 4, Guymon 6, Matthew Syn 8, Michael Syn 9, Thomas 14, Del Carlo 14
Shasta – Barr 2, Soksoda 2, Bova 2, C. Turner 8, S. Turner 9, Dhinsa 11, Cushman 15, Sahota 18, Beasley 24.
3-pointers – Chico: 5 – Michael Syn, Butterfield, Guymon, Thomas (2); Shasta: 4 – Sahota, Dhinsa, C. Turner (2), Beasley (4)