Clinging to a three-point lead in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, Shasta coach Alicia Dahl held an impromptu pop quiz for her players. With the Wolves (13-7, 3-2 Eastern Athletic League) up 62-59 after Isabelle Smith’s first free throw Dahl held class.
“They came over to the bench and I said ‘how much are we up by?’ they say it and then I ask ‘what do we need to do?’ ” the Shasta coach said of reminding her of situational basketball. “It’s like a pop quiz on the bench just to know they’re focused.”
Smith missed the second freebie with 14 ticks left and Foothill’s Emma Roach took the outlet and drove down the floor. Only she didn’t stop at the 3-point line or kick out to a teammate, instead driving to the rim where she was fouled with 1.2 seconds left.
“I said if they’re going (to the basket) let them go. We want a two not a three,” Dahl said.
Foothill coach Stephanie Ahluwalia was thinking just the opposite.
“I yelling ‘No, we need a 3,’ ” she said. “Emma’s a only a junior and plays hard and it was just one of those things. She’s getting experience and that’s one of those (situational) things you learn as you go.”
That the Cougars (10-9, 2-3 EAL) were close at the end is a tribute to Foothill’s stick-to-it-ness after closing a 21-10 first-quarter gap and a 36-30 halftime deficit.
Shasta’s Ava Jackson came out from the onset and shot lights out with 13 of her game-high 22 in the first half. Smith opened the scoring with a basket before Ella Rodriguez added another. Smith dropped a triple and deuce before Jackson hit her first trey from the right wing and a 12-5 Shasta edge halfway through the quarter.
“Ava is hard to defend,” Dahl said. “She’s got a quick release, sees the shot and takes it and I actually expect everything she takes to go in.
“She’s such a sharpshooter. She sets the tone for us most nights and she lit it up tonight.”
Jackson added a pair of two-point buckets sandwiched around a Taryn Giacomelli 3-pointer and Rodriguez closed out the quarter with a bucket and the 21-10 edge.
In the second quarter, Roach, who led the Cougars with 17, came alive with a 15-foot jumper and a left-corner triple to cut the Wolves’ lead to 25-17 with 5:40 to play in the half. The Cougars would trim the lead to six at half before Jackson again stormed out with two 3-pointers in the first 90 seconds of the quarter, only to be matched by two triples for Foothill, one from Isa Padilla and the other from Amber Wallace.
Jackson picked up her third foul with 3:43 left in the third and the Cougars seized on that as a chance to trim the Wolves’ 44-39 edge.
“I think that helped boost my girls,” Ahluwalia said. “They thought ‘Let’s take advantage of Ava not being in there.’ ”
Slowly, Foothill eroded the lead with baskets by Wallace, Ashlyn Arnold, a 10-foot turnaround from Maddie Matthews followed by a second Matthews basket to give Foothill a 47-46 lead at the end of three — its first lead of the game.
“There was a period where we went flat and that sometimes happens when Ava’s on the bench, but others have to pick it,” Dahl said. “Our defense went a little soft as well.”
The teams played nip-and-tuck for most of the final stanza as Roach would can a three-ball to knot the game at 54 with 4 minutes left to play before Smith countered with her own dagger from distance and a 57-54 edge with 3:30 remaining.
There were three leads changes and three ties in the period before Jackson put Shasta up for good 60-59 with a driving layup with just over a minute left.
Foothill missed its final two field goal attempts and had a turnover down 61-59 with 16.5 seconds to play leading to Smith’s free throws and Dahl’s pop quiz.
“I think they passed,” Dahl said.
Foothill – 10-20-17-12-59
Shasta – 21-15-10-16 – 62
Cougars (10-9, 2-3) – Toney 3, Mitchell 6, Matthews 6, Arnold 7, Padilla 9, Wallace 11, Roach 17.
Wolves (13-7, 3-2) – Giacomelli 5, Smith 17, Rodriguez 18, Jackson 22.
3-pointers – FHS – 8: Toney, Padilla, Arnold, Wallace (2), Roach (3); SHS -8: Giacomelli, Smith (2), Jackson (5).
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