A strong second half lifted the Mount Shasta boys basketball team to a 67-53 win over Etna Tuesday night and set up a first-place showdown with Trinity Friday night on the Bears’ home court.

A strong second half lifted the Mount Shasta boys basketball team to a 67-53 win over Etna Tuesday night and set up a first-place showdown with Trinity Friday night on the Bears’ home court.

Mount Shasta trailed Etna 35-33 at half time, then held the Lions to just 18 points in the second half.

“Our defense picked it up and we were running our sets better on offense in the second half,” said Bears coach Cliff Blakely.

The news was not so good for the Mount Shasta girls, who lost to Etna and fell into a fourth place tie in league with a 3-3 record. Etna’s girls left Mount Shasta tied for first place with Weed, both at 5-1. The Lady Cougars are scheduled to host the Lions on Carnival night Friday in Weed.

Blakely said the Mount Shasta boys were surprised that Etna played man-to-man defense Tuesday night, but they eventually “got it figured out.”

The Bears’ big three scoring trio of Cesar Gonzalez, Preston Blakely and John Clemens scored 17, 16 and 15 points, respectively. “The way we need it to be with those three,” said the coach.

Sean Micklos scored 8, Karl Olguin made a pair of 3-point baskets, Garrett Bryan had 3 points and Michael Fuentes 2.

Blakely said Etna is an improved team under second year head coach Charnna Gilmore and players like 6-foot-3 senior Wade Thackeray, who led the Lions with 23 points.

The loss dropped Etna to 3-3 at the halfway point of the Shasta Cascade League season, two games behind Mount Shasta, Trinity and Fall River, all tied for first at 5-1.

The defending league champion Bears (14-6 overall) are scheduled to face both Trinity (9-6) and Fall River (18-1) the next two Friday nights, with a Tuesday night home game against rival Weed (2-4, 12-8) in between on Feb. 3.

The Bears lost their SCL opener at Trinity, 47-41, on Jan. 6 and handed Fall River its only loss of the season so far, 75-73, Jan. 13 in Mount Shasta.

Fall River defeated Trinity, 83-61, Jan. 20 in McArthur.

Blakely said the Bears didn’t shoot well in their loss to Trinity and were “out-worked” by the Wolves.

“Our defense wasn’t that good, even though it was a low-scoring game. We didn’t have our hustle,” he said. “They followed their game plan and it worked. We know they’re going to come in here ready to go.”

He said the Bears are showing signs of improvement “in spurts” and “would like to get our post going more.”