SANTA ANA – All 10 Foothill players who played contributed to the Knights’ win Saturday.
So did a few Knights who did not play.
It was a complete team effort for Foothill in its 69-64 victory over Rancho Cucamonga in a CIF Southern California Division II regional semifinal.
Foothill (30-3) will play at home against Los Altos in the Division II final on Tuesday at 6 p.m. The winner advances to the CIF State Championships, a destination that would be new to Foothill boys basketball.
Los Altos defeated Edison 57-41 in the other Division II semifinal Saturday.
Rancho Cucamonga finished 29-7. The Cougars won the CIF Southern Section Division 3AA championship before going into the state tournament.
Foothill senior guard Jacob Horton scored 17 points with seven rebounds before fouling out early in the fourth quarter. Senior forward Braedyn Bernhard scored 15. Senior guard Cruz Billings scored 12 points including 10 in the fourth quarter.
Junior guard Carlo Billings scored seven of his nine points in the third quarter and collected nine rebounds. Senior guard Mikey Mazurie scored nine points with five rebounds and made three clutch free throws in the fourth quarter. Tyler Ammann, Marco Manzi and Anthony Marinelli scored two points each but more importantly grabbed critical rebounds or tore after loose balls as did Colin Holt and Barrett Lehnertz.
And maybe a Knight or two who did not play also made it possible for Foothill to be one win away from going to Sacrament for the state finals.
“I’ve got to thank the scout team,” said Bernhard, taking a break from yet another raucous postgame celebration that is commonplace in Foothill’s gym. The scout team is the group of backups that runs the upcoming opponent’s offense in practice so the starters and key reserves can learn what’s coming.
“The scout team was a big help for us,” Bernhard said. “We spent an hour, an hour and a half going over (Rancho Cucamonga’s) plays and all their sets. And it really showed. We knew half their sets the whole time.”
As important as the pregame education was, it was not enough to teach the Knight how to stop Shadale Knight. The 6-foot junior guard scored 34 points for Rancho Cucamonga with five 3-pointers. Knight was 12 for 13 at the free-throw line, including 9 for 9 in the fourth quarter.
Foothill advanced to the semifinal with a triple-overtime, 96-95 win over Carlsbad in the second round Thursday.
That game, Foothill coach Yousof Etemadi said, provided lessons applied Saturday.
“Carlsbad really put it on us,” Etemadi said. “We told our guys you’ve got to come out hard, you’ve got to come out hard. These guys (the Cougars) are good, they’re a good defensive team and we had to come out and push the pace.”
Foothill did so, taking a 6-0 lead. Knight made three 3s in the first quarter to keep the Cougars close. Foothill carried a 13-12 lead into the second quarter.
The Knights outscored Rancho Cucamonga in the second quarter that included one of those full-effort plays that happened every few minutes for Foothill. On this one, Cruz Billings missed a 3, Marinelli knifed his way through bodies to get the offensive rebound and got the ball to Mazurie who made a 3-pointer.
Foothill had a 31-24 lead at halftime. Rancho Cucamonga freshman Aaron Glass scored 10 of his 20 points in the third quarter in which Carlo Billings scored seven points and Bernhard muscled inside to score six. The Knights took a 50-44 lead into the fourth quarter.
Ten seconds into the final quarter Cruz Billings accelerated to the basket for a layup, was fouled and made the free throw for a 53-44 lead. Rancho Cucamonga battled and tied it 58-58. Mazurie scored inside to put Foothill back on top 60-58 with 2:15 remaining but a Glass basket tied it again 60-60 with 1:51 to go.
In the remaining time Foothill outscored Rancho Cucamonga 9-4: Cruz Billings made four free throws, Bernhard made two and Mazurie made one, and Manzi scored on a breakaway layup.
The variety of players scoring in that final 111 seconds was an accurate sample of Foothill’s play the entire game.
“The biggest thing with our guys is that they believe in each other,” Etemadi said. “Whether one guy is playing or the other guy is playing, they constantly cheer for each other and fight for each other. We’re all about being one big team, and I couldn’t be prouder of these guys.”