Kele Fitzhugh had a feeling it was only a matter of time before things clicked again for his Knights like they did early in the season.
Shasta College held GVC leader No. 13 Redwoods, which entered second in the state in 3-pointers made and 3-point shooting percentage, to two field goals in the final 8 minutes to hand them their first conference defeat 87-76 Saturday in the Sierra Pacific Industries College Game of the Week.
“We’ve all known we were capable of playing this way, it’s a matter of us maturing and playing consistently,” said Fitzhugh, Shasta College’s head coach. “I saw the sophomores play with more of the passion than they have been and I’m used to seeing and playing with a purpose.”
Shasta (2-2 GVC, 11-11) trailed for only nine seconds in the game when the score was 5-3 but responded with an 11-0 run highlighted by a 3-pointer from Derek Gorden to get ahead. The Knights pushed their lead to 27-13 back-to-back 3s from Tanner Bidwell and Adam Shoff and stretched it to 15 on Michael Plunkitt’s layup with 8:11 to go in the half.
The constant energy from the onset laid the groundwork for the upset win.
“Every game we come out soft and don’t bring the energy we need in the beginning of the game so we come out flat and get down to much,” said Gorden, who scored 15 points. “But we had the energy the early and had it the whole game.”
Redwoods (4-1 GVC, 17-4) cut the deficit to five with a 10-0 run without a downtown jumper and later got it to four on Drew Gillette’s trey at 36-32. But Shasta answered with another Gorden 3 and kept pace until halftime with a 48-39 lead at the break.
The revived Knights coming off a disappointing loss at Butte College last week were playing with constant movement with and without the ball, confidence in shot selection and rotating on defense. Most of all, there weren’t any dips in focus or intensity.
“We can beat anyone in the conference when we play like this,” Gorden said.
Despite hitting eight 3s in the first half, it took Shasta nearly eight minutes to knock down its first triple of the second half. The Knights didn’t need to – they worked inside, in transition and got the free throw line to keep Redwoods at bay.
Zach Thompson hit a deep jumper for a 12-point lead but Redwoods came back with a 10-2 run capped by 3s from Zac Claus and Isaac Puzz to make it a two possession game at 68-64 with 8:38 left.
But the Knights, focused on defending the perimeter on the night, only the Corsairs to hit on two more shots – both 3s – the rest of the game.
“I told them the only way they were coming back is if they shoot 3s so we couldn’t give them those looks. Two’s didn’t hurt us because 3s give them energy and focus,” Fitzhugh said.
With Redwoods peppering the hoop with shots from downtown, Shasta worked to the rim and got to the free throw line to extend its lead. The Knights made 17-of-20 foul shots in the second half and was 21-of-25 in the game.
Redwoods cut the lead to seven with 59 seconds left but turned the ball over after that and later missed a layup. That allowed Thompson, one of six Knights in double figures in the game, to sink four straight free throws to end it.
Simmer Singh finished with a team-best 17 points while Plunkitt added 15 points and Brenden Hoag had 11.
Gillette scored 18 of his game-high 23 in the first half for Redwoods.
Shasta’s been searching for that spark that could catapult the Knights back onto the hunt for the GVC title and Saturday’s victory might be that turning point.
“I thought we earned that game,” Fitzhugh said. “We didn’t just get a win. We earned it.”
Redwoods (4-1 GVC, 17-4): Gillette 23, Nelson 15, Pozz 11, Willis 11, B. Willis 7, Claus 7, Rossman 2.
Shasta (2-2 GVC, 11-11): Singh 17, Gorden 15, Plunkitt 15, Hoag 11, Thompson 10, Bidwell 10, Cruz 6, Shoff 3.
3-pointers—Redwoods 10: Gillette (5), Pozz (3), D. Willis (1), Claus (1); Shasta 10: Gorden (3), Cruz (2), Thompson (1), Singh (1), Bidwell (1), Shoff (1), Hoag (1).
Team GVC, Overall
Redwoods 4-1, 17-4
Butte 2-2, 12-8
Shasta 2-2, 11-11
Feather River 2-2, 7-13
Siskiyous 1-2, 7-13
Lassen 1-3, 5-13