It took 31 years for Weed High’s boys basketball team to get back to the Northern Section championship game.
With that generational gap in between appearances, the Cougars’ inexperience in tight situations on the elevated stage surfaced on several occasions.
But it was enough for Weed to end the drought.
Fourth-seeded Weed used an 8-0 run across more than 5 minutes in the fourth quarter to take the lead for good and held off a late push from No. 3 Fall River to capture the Northern Section Division VI title with a 49-47 win Saturday at Shasta College. All playoff coverage presented by Redding Rancheria.
Grant Lane buried the go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:52 remaining to give Weed its first lead of the game at 45-44. The Bulldogs turned it over twice inside the final 1:37 but the Cougars’ struggles from the free throw line allowed the Bulldogs to hang around. Evan Bidwell’s deep 3 brought the deficit within two with 5.1 seconds left.
Video by Tracy Holmes/Shasta County Sports
Lane was fouled and missed both foul shot and Royce Knoch’s game-winning half-court heave at the buzzer clanged off the front of the rim to give the Cougars their first section crown since 1989.
“Having a good crowd really helped,” said Lane, who finished with 10 points, “and having a team that wants to win every day and every single minute is a big help. That’s why we pulled this game off.”
Weed (21-4) nearly gave the game away with their shooting woes from the charity stripe. The Cougars started 1-of-9 from the line and finished 11-of-24. No two were more important, though, than with Weed clinging to a 45-44 lead and Jivarqua Jordan-Foster heading to the line with 2:20 remaining.
Cougars’ coach Robert West called Jordan-Foster over to the bench before his shot, leaned in close and said “I need these.”
He nailed them both, giving Weed the breathing room it needed to hold on the rest of the way.
“We missed so many free throws the last two times we played Fall River – I think we were under 40 percent,” West said. “So to see us shoot ourselves in the foot constantly and still pull it out was incredible. I’ll take the win, even if it comes ugly.”
An up-and-down, high-energy first quarter saw Fall River lead 19-13 after one. The scoring balance and depth of the Bulldogs gave them fresh legs and quality shots to prevent Weed from keying on a tendency. Nine guys scored in the first half that saw Fall River stay ahead from the start and lead 31-27 at the break.
Weed turned the ball over three times across four possessions early in the third. The Bulldogs’ responded with Jarom Oilar’s 3-pointer, Brian Meeker’s inside bucket and Knoch’s coast-to-coast layup to go ahead 38-30.
A Dallas Lane 3 – his fourth of the night – sparked life in the Cougars and they ended the period on a 7-1 run to cut it to a one possession game for the first time since they trailed 3-0.
Tripp Rodriguez tied it early in the fourth with an and-1 but missed the free throw – a theme that would hang around for the duration of the game.
Timmy Westlund and Oilar each hit jumpers to put Fall River ahead 44-40 but the Bulldogs followed with a scoring drought which lasted longer than 5 minutes.
The same 1-2-2 zone Weed deployed to shut down Redding Christian in the semifinals worked to perfection again, switching in and out of it with the 2-3 and 3-2 zone. It kept Fall River uncomfortable.
“We struggled with that zone, we had about six or seven possessions we didn’t get good shots,” Fall River coach Scott Gallion said.
Jordan-Foster drove the lane for 2 and Grant Lane’s 3 put the Cougars ahead for good. Fall River turned it over three times in four possessions with just more than a minute to play. Jordan-Foster split a pair of free throws with 12.6 left and Bidwell’s 3 made it a one-possession game.
Knoch’s buzzer-beater was on target but short, sending the Cougars’ bench into pandemonium near center court. Knoch finished with a team-best nine points.
“They executed at the end and we didn’t,” Gallion said. “We can hang in there with our depth and have finished in the fourth quarter this year but we turned it over instead of making key plays.”
Dallas Lane scored a game-high 13 points while Rodriguez and Jordan-Foster each had eight.
Alongside West on the bench was his grandfather Mike Caprine, a current assistant coach who was at the helm for the Cougars during their 1989 championship season. Knowing he helped bring a championship plaque back to his alma mater was extra special.
“I’m lucky enough to have two coaches from that 89 team here,” said West, a 2010 Weed grad. “We got a huge send off and it looked like the whole town was here. This is a culture change and hopefully we will continue to accumulate more section championships in the future.”
#4 Weed 49, #3 Fall River 47
Fall River 19-12-8-8—47
Weed (21-4): D. Lane 13, G. Lane 10, Rodriguez 8, Jordan-Foster 8, Nicholas 7, LaFortune 3.
Fall River (23-6): Knoch 9, J. Oilar 8, Westlund 7, Perez 5, Bidwell 5, Osborne 5, Meeker 4, Corder 2, Iniguez 2.
3-pointers—Weed 8 (D. Lane 4, LaFortune, G. Lane, Jordan-Foster, Nicholas); Fall River 4 (Oilar 2, Perez, Bidwell).
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