photo by Mike Daly
REDDING, Calif. – The Knights sure know how to send their sophomores out in style. Of course, it helps when all seven players that saw the court on Wednesday had something to play for.
Shasta College's men's basketball team used a 15-0 second-half run to pull away and bury visiting Feather River 84-71 on sophomore night to extend its winning streak to six games.
The victory likely propelled the Knights to its first playoff berth since the 2009-2010 season, coach Kele Fitzhugh said. Shasta, ranked No. 15 in the state in the latest California Community College Athletic Association Coaches Poll, can share the Golden Valley Conference title with Butte with a victory over College of the Redwoods on Wednesday, or a Roadrunner loss in either of their final two games.
To be in position of clinching a tournament spot, though, took a group of Knights dedicated to unselfish play.
"It's a mature group of guys and it goes back to all of us buying in and listening to what coach has to say," said sophomore Jordan Spaschak, who added nine assists against Feather River to his state-leading total. "We have guys that have been around the program and the game awhile. We have a willingness to share the ball every game and we're playing good basketball right now."
Seven of the eight Knights who dressed saw playing time and all seven scored. Even outnumbered, that core funneled life back into the program through energy and the value of teamwork, Fitzhugh said.
"There's not a whole lot I could say before the game; they knew what they needed to do and they knew each other," Fitzhugh said.
The first half featured seven lead changes, six ties and neither team led by more than six. Shasta (8-1 GVC, 17-9) trailed by two at intermission and was patient to strike until Feather River (5-3 GVC, 16-9) found itself in a low.
David O'Brien, Kellen Gerig and Hunter Johnson each made a layup to ignite a 15-0 run. Shasta was on the positive end of three straight and-1 calls as Gerig and Spaschak completed old-fashioned three-point plays to take a 64-49 lead.
Spaschak, who finished with 19 points – second highest on the team to Gerig's 20, went into attack mode with another layup, which opened up his teammates. Johnson found Gerig and Blake Trent on backdoor cuts to the hoop for easy buckets and Zach Lowe got in on the action by knocking down a jumper from beyond the arc to give the Knights their largest lead at 18 with less than four minutes to play.
Feather River, which at one point scored only seven points across seven minutes in the second half, never got closer than 12 the rest of the way.
"I saw them calm down and let the game come to them," Fitzhugh said. "They calmed down on their passes, Jordan was attacking too quickly but slowed down. This is a great group of guys that love to play for each other. You can see it."
Johnson finished with 16 points, Lowe scored 14 points and O'Brien chipped in with nine points off the bench.
Feather River's Gerard Andrus – the state's leader in made field goals – scored a game-high 25 points.
Written by T.J. Holmes, Special to the Record Searchlight/USA TODAY
#15 Shasta 8-1, 17-9
#13 Butte 7-1, 20-4
Feather River 5-3, 16-9
Lassen 2-5, 6-14
Redwoods 1-6, 3-18
Siskiyous 1-8, 3-21