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Shasta College men fall short against Butte 76-70 in pivotal GVC contest

Butte College point guard Shakwon Lewis goes up for a layup between Shasta College defenders (from left) Simmer Singh, Derek Gorden and Michael Plunkitt during their game Wednesday night. Butte won 76-70. (Maddie Harrell/Special to Shasta County Sports)

Shasta College entered Wednesday’s home game against Butte with a shot at solidifying its chances for a postseason berth.

A parity-filled Golden Valley Conference meant it’s a tougher task than expected.

Butte used a 16-2 run midway through the second half and held off host Shasta with free throws late to win 76-70 Wednesday night in the Sierra Pacific Industries College Game of the Week.

“This conference is so fun and I think every year it’s been that way,” said Shasta College coach Kele Fitzhugh. “It doesn’t matter who is where or last, if you don’t come to play you’ll get beat.”

Butte snapped Shasta’s three-game winning streak that dropped the Knights into a tie for second place in the Golden Valley Conference with the Roadrunners. The race for the GVC title is leaving little margin for error and that makes for an intriguing final two weeks of the regular season.

Video by Tracy Holmes/Shasta County Sports

“We had to have this one and now we got Shasta twice so that means we have the edge if we end up tying in conference,” said Butte coach Russ Critchfield.

Shasta (4-3 GVC, 13-12) led 29-28 at half in a see-saw affair despite missing a bevy of shots from beyond the arc. The Knights pushed that lead to nine thanks to an 8-0 run 5 minutes into the second half. Zach Thompson fed Michael Plunkitt inside for 2, Derek Gorden buried a 3 and Simmer Singh’s putback gave Shasta a 46-37 advantage.

But Butte (4-3 GVC, 14-9) didn’t flinch.

The Roadrunners answered with a 12-0 run and stretched it to 16-2 as Shakwon Lewis, Kole Riccomini and Reece Kettle each hit a 3. Noah Zoppi ended the run with a trey to swap the momentum in favor of the visitors.

Butte College’s Noah Zoppi dribbles around Shasta College’s Zach Thompson Wednesday night. Zoppi and Thompson each scored 20 points for their respective teams. (Maddie Harrell/Special to Shasta County Sports)

“We had a defensive breakdown; we talked about strong-side penetration and not leaving the corner,” Fitzhugh said. “It’s the execution. They make those 3s down the stretch in second half and we don’t. We had plenty of good looks too.”

Butte wouldn’t relinquish the lead the rest of the way, though, Shasta stayed close. The Knights cut into the Roadrunner lead to make it a one-possession game six times in the final 5 minutes, the last of which on Thompson’s 3 to make it 68-67.

Zoppi attacked for a layup to go up 3 with 35 seconds left and Eric Spencer sank a pair of free throws – a theme that would stick around at the end of the game for Butte.

Plunkitt’s and-1 brought it within two at 72-70 and Riccomini split a pair of free throws, giving Shasta life down 3. Except Plunkitt drove the lane and rushed his layup, allowing Butte to grab the rebound and finish the Knights off with free throws.

Butte made 12-of-14 foul shots inside the final 3:16 of the game and finished 16-of-19 from the line in the second half.

“I hate to lose games like that but it comes down to one team making shots and the other not,” Fitzhugh said. “We had the opportunity and fought hard to get to that point but couldn’t finish.”

Spencer and Zoppi each scored 20 points to lead Butte while Shasta’s Thompson matched the effort with a team-best 20 points. Singh scored 15 points and Plunkitt pitched in 10 for the Knights.

Butte 76, Shasta 70
Butte 28-48—76
Shasta 29-41—70
Butte (4-3 GVC, 14-9): Spencer 20, Zoppi 20, Kettle 8, Lewis 6, Riccomini 6, High 6, Turner 5, Montoya 3, Marbley Jr 2.
Shasta (4-3 GVC, 13-12): Thompson 20, Singh 15, Plunkitt 10, Bidwell  7, Shoff 6, Gorden 6, Hoag 6.
3-pointers—Butte 9 (Spencer 2, Zoppi 2, Lewis, Riccomini, Montoya, Turner, Kettle); Shasta 7 (Thompson 2, Shoff 2, Bidwell, Gorden, Singh).

Team GVC, Overall
Redwoods 5-1, 18-4
Butte 4-3, 14-9
Shasta 4-3, 13-12
Feather River 3-4, 8-15
Siskiyous 2-4, 8-15
Lassen 2-5, 6-15

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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