Coming into Wednesday’s Golden Valley Conference opener at Shasta, College of the Siskiyous coach Kyle Heath was hopeful to be able sneak back to Weed with a win.
Knights coach Kele Fitzhugh meanwhile was hoping to not have another “Groundhog’s Day” experience.
Heath and the Eagles made the trip back north with a 81-74 victory to open conference play and Fitzhugh felt a little like Bill Murray – watching his team do the same thing it’s been doing much of the season.
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“We’ve been doing this all year,” Fitzhugh said. “We play bad to start, guys aren’t focused and we don’t get off to a good start.
“And the second half, we play as hard as we should play (the whole game). If you look at our record, we’ve been coming up three, four, five points short the whole time.”
The Eagles used an 8-0 run in the middle of the first half to get separation from the hosts and expanded that to a 17-2 burst as Montell Willis hit a pair of triples for COS to give them a 22-17 lead and then J’Quail Hanks scored the next 11 for the Eagles and Shasta went from up 17-16 to down 33-19 in the span of five minutes.
“I challenged my guys to be relentless – go out on the road in the opener and steal one,” Heath said.
After building the 33-19 lead, the teams would play even over the final five minutes of the half and enter intermission with COS leading 40-28 as Hanks scored 17 for the Eagles and Derek Gorden led the Knights with 11 on a trio of 3-pointers and two free throws.
And in the movie Fitzhugh has seen prior, the Knights came out of the halftime locker room inspired.
Zach Thompson scored 20 of his game-high 25 in the second half as the Knights got the deficit to 10 four minutes in on a Thompson basket.
The lead wold fluctuate for COS around 10 to 12 points for the seven minutes as the Eagles matched intensity – and baskets – with Shasta.
Thompson cut the edge to 10 again – 61-51 – on a jumper that started a personal 10-6 run where the lead was trimmed to 67-59 after his 3-ball from the left side. Michael Plunkitt added a transition layup and, after Bishop Thomas answered that for COS, Tanner Bidwell canned a triple to make the score 69-64 with 5:30 to play.
The Shasta burst was fueled in part by the Knights’ pressure and four Eagles’ turnovers.
“I was thinking ‘I’ve seen this before,’ ” Heath said of watching the lead evaporate. “We’ve struggled with turning the ball over against pressure.”
Freshman Kody Bauman hit a hook shot in the paint for a 71-64 lead that seemed to right the COS ship as the Knights were missing the front end of one-and-one opportunities.
With under 3 to play, Plunkitt swiped an errant COS pass and converted on the other end to pull Shasta within 2 at 72-70. But the Knights couldn’t find the equalizer after a Gorden steal as he was called later in the possession for an illegal screen.
Bauman’s two free throws jumped the lead to 74-70 and bench player Jake Psaila added a low-post basket before Gordon answered with a triple to cut the edge to 76-73 with 51 seconds remaining.
But the Knights got off a rushed shot following a steal and timeout and Thomas and Bauman iced the game hitting 5-of-6 free throws over the final 25 seconds.
“We made enough plays,” Heath said. “We were probably lucky the clock ran out. I think we might’ve been in trouble if they had a couple more minute.”
And in the loss, Fitzhugh said the less was evident – play the whole game like they did the second half.
“That’s that passion that we talk about,” he said. “I tell them ‘We’re not good enough just to show up and win games.’ ”
Siskiyous – 40-41-81
Shasta – 28-48 – 76
Eagles (7-11, 0-1) – Taylor 3, Snure 4, Psaila 5, Willis 13 Thomas 17, Bauman 18, Hanks 21.
Knights (9-10, 0-1) – Cruz 2, Hoag 5, Plunkitt 9, Bidwell 9, Singh 12, Gordon 14, Thompson 25.
3-pointers – COS – 9: Bauman, Taylor, Hanks, Thomas (3), Willis (3) ; SC – 12: Hoag, Bidwell (3), Gordon (4), Thompson (4).
Siskiyous 74, Shasta 59
The Eagles got 21 points from Anhelica Shanrock, 17 in the first half, as the visitors came out red hot and led wire-to-wire in the GVC opener.
Lynden Harry had 18, Lily Hitchcock scored 15 and Ashley Cox added 14 for COS.
Jenna Wallace had 19 points, Riley Wallen chipped in 16 and Megan Collins added 14 as the Knights trailed throughout.
The Eagles (13-6, 1-0 GVC) took a 20-2 lead in the first seven minutes of the game and never looked back, going into the locker room up 49-23.
The Knights (12-6, 0-1 GVC) cut the lead to 12, 62-50, at the start of the fourth quarter, but the Eagles worked the clock on their possessions and Shasta never seriously challenged.
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