Shasta’s Caden Cushman, seen in a file photo, had 21 points for the Wolves in a 69-56 win over Chico on Friday at Harlan Carter Gym. (File photo by Mike Daly / Shasta County Sports)
Chico coach Abe Simmons said before Friday’s game that the Panthers’ Achilles’ heel all season has been the third period. The uber-young Panthers do well, he said, in the opening 16 minutes, but have had a hard time coming out of intermission.
The Shasta boys basketball team made Simmons’ words prophetic as the Wolves came out of the locker room nursing a 28-25 lead and proceeded to – after four-possession blip – blitz the Panthers for a 12-0 run over a two-minute span to extend the halftime lead from three to a 38-25 edge en route to a 69-56 victory at Harlan Carter Gym.
“We’ve struggled with the third quarters – maybe I should just shut up and not even go into the locker room,” Simmons joked. “We talk a lot about how important the first three minutes of the third period is. One team is going to be ready and go on a run and one is not. Shasta was ready and we weren’t and they punched us in the mouth. We weren’t ready to fight back.”
The Wolves’ metaphorical punch needed a little wind up as Shasta came out of the break and turned the ball over twice and missed two shots on their first possessions of the second half. Then the home team landed a few punches as everything started dropping for Shasta (13-10, 3-3 Eastern Athletic League), which has been working on chemistry since last December with the addition of transfers Dilraj Sahota and Armal Dhinsa after their 30-day sitout period.
Sahota scored on back-to-back buckets and then the Cadens – Cushman and Turner – got into the act scoring the next six points while Sahota’s fast break layup off a JT Beasley assist capped the dozen-point run. Chico’s Stephen Schaefer’s low-post basket at the 4:30 mark of the third got the Panthers in the second-half book, but the Wolves outscored the visitors – who start five sophomores – 23-9 in the third period.
“We run the ball really well up the floor and that’s what (coach Jordan) Freilich said at halftime that we needed to do,” Caden Turner said. “He said we got tired in the second quarter, but we came out and ran the floor like we’re capable of (in the third quarter).”
Five Wolves scored in the third quarter as they boosted the edge to 51-34 entering the final stanza. And Shasta, which has hung its hat on outside shooting at times, went through the third period without hitting from range as all baskets were either 2-pointers or free throws.
“We just have to play hard and push the ball – I think that’s where we excel,” Cushman said, “keep each other up and push the ball and we can go on those big runs.”
And just as Simmons said his Panthers wilt a little in the third, they showed grit in the final period, cutting the Wolves’ lead to 10 at one point before Shasta created a more comfortable distance for the home faithful.
Cushman led the team with a “quiet” 21 points, scoring in each quarter while dropping in nine in the fourth as the Panthers were doing their best to make things interesting.
Chico trailed 58-44 with 4:48 left in the game before Quentin Thomas scored on a fast break and Matthew Syn scored four points sandwiched between as Simon Turner bucket in the paint as the Panthers cut what had been a 18-point edge to 60-50 with a little over 3 minutes to play.
That’s when “Cush” pushed the Wolves back into comfort territory, scoring seven straight on a 15-footer, a triple from the left wing and a pair of freebies.
He’s one of those guys when one of our big guys, Simon (Turner), Cade (Corontzos), Raj (Sahota)- he was doing especially well tonight on the boards – Cush is one of those guys who you know will be there (in transition) and he’s a finisher,” Caden Turner said.
The win was also big, Turner said, because it got them back to square in league with a road showdown with Foothill on Tuesday.
“It started with Red Bluff,” Turner said, referring to a hard-fought 79-54 road win over the Spartans. “I said it shouldn’t take a scrappy Red Bluff team to bring out the intensity. Tonight we showed that intensity and hopefully it will carry into next Tuesday.”
Chico – 9, 16, 9, 22 – 56
Shasta – 16, 12, 23, 18 – 69
Chico – Mi. Syn 1, Del Carlo 4, Thomas 6, Brott 9, Ma. Syn 10, Driscoll 12, Schaefer 14.
Shasta – Dhinsa 2, S. Turner 7, Beasley 8, Sahota 12, C. Turner 19, Cushman 21.
3-pointers – Chico: 7 – Schaefer, Brott (3), Driscoll (3); Shasta: 5 – Cushman, Sahota, Turner (3).