The sports axiom that beating a team three times in a season is difficult. Four times? Well … that must be next to impossible, right?
Not for the Shasta girls basketball team, which got 19 points from Ava Jackson, 15 from Isabelle Smith and 14 from Julianna Flores as the No. 4 Wolves advanced 71-43 over the fifth-seeded Cougars on Thursday in the opening round of the Northern Section Division III bracket at Harlan Carter Gymnasium.
The Wolves now travel to top-seeded Pleasant Valley on Tuesday with a trip to Friday’s D-III finals at Butte College on the line.
All Shasta County Sports playoffs coverage is presented by Redding Rancheria.
In order to get to PV, Shasta first had to complete the season sweep over Foothill as the Wolves owned a 64-39 win at the Harlan Carter Invitational as well as Eastern Athletic League victories of 62-59 and 56-48 last week to close the regular season and actually give them the home court for Thursday’s action.
“We talked about beating someone three times (last week) and we had to talk about beating someone four times,” Shasta coach Alicia Dahl said. “Four-peat. It’s hard to do.”
The home team came out aggressive, jumping to a 12-3 lead over the first four minutes of the game as Flores, Taryn Giacomelli and Jackson all hit buckets before two free throws from Flores and a second Smith basket forced Foothill to call time.
The Cougars would stay within striking distance in the first, trailing 17-12 after the quarter as the Cougars dominated the boards throughout the contest. However, the second, third and four chances often didn’t equate to easy offense as Foothill also committed seven first-half turnovers.
“Rebounding is important, but so is shooting and I think when it came to playing our offense, we were sporadic,” Foothill coach Stephanie Ahluwalia said as Hayden Toney lead the Cougars with 10 points.
Meanwhile, the Wolves were aggressive on offense, looking for cutters and utilizing an effective drive-and-dish game to their shooters.
Ella Rodriguez scored the first eight points of the second period for Shasta on am up-and-under layup, a left-corner triple and transition bucket to put Shasta up 24-17 with 4:36 left in the half. Giacomelli found a cutting Katie Poletski for an layup down Broadway and a 26-18 edge halfway through the quarter.
“Our goal was to attack and get points off layups, fouls and then kick out to our shooters,” Dahl said. “They worked well as a team.”
But the glass domination and turnovers allowed Foothill to stay close, cutting the Shasta lead to 26-21 after a Wolves’ turnover led to an Isa Padilla layup on a dime from Melissa Mitchell. The Wolves countered by hitting 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch and took a 31-21 lead into the locker room.
And while the Wolves came out intermission the aggressor starting the second half on an 11-4 run, Foothill managed to keep the quarter deficit to 16-14 and trailed 47-35 heading into the last frame.
That’s when Shasta exploded for a 24-8 period edge to take what was a close contest into one where subs and JV callups got minutes toward the end.
“We were diligent in our passing and executed our offense tonight,” Dahl said. “We talked well on defense and a couple of girls I’ve been talking to went off (offensively) tonight, like J (Flores).”
Flores and Giacomelli started the quarter with hoops and harm – though neither converted the and-one – before two Smith baskets and a Jackson deuce after one of two freebies from Rodriguez capped an 11-6 start over the first four minutes of the quarter. Foothill would go cold for the next 3:30 as Shasta hits 5-of-6 free throws and got 3-pointers from Smith and Giacomelli.
“Basketball is so mental,” Ahluwalia said. “There’s just some little things that were killing us.”
Shasta now draws No. 1 Pleasant Valley after splitting with the Vikings in the regular season and falling 46-42 in the finals of the Dorothy Spreck tournament in the first week of December.
“We have to do what we did the first time (in league) and push the tempo,” Dahl said of stopping PV leading scorer Christiane Carlisle. “We just have to play good Shasta ball and we’ll be fine.”
No. 5 Foothill – 12-9-14-8 – 43
No. 4 Shasta – 17-14-16-24 – 71
Cougars (12-13) – Dutton 1, Loewen 3, Roach 3, Mitchell 5, Matthews 5, Wallace 7, Padilla 9, Toney 10.
Wolves (16-10) – Woods 2, Poletski 5, Giacomelli 9, Rodriguez 9, Flores 14, Smith 15, Jackson 19.
3-pointers – FHS – 3: Loewen, Wallace, Toney ; SHS – 6: Poletski, Smith, Rodriguez, Giacomelli, Jackson (2).
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