Mount Shasta girls reach Nor Cal semifinals as the 14 seed

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald
Number 14 seed indeed -- Mount Shasta High School players Emily Andrus, Kacey Cain and Lily Hitchcock wear big smiles as they show 14, their team's seed in the Northern California Division V playoffs. They've now scored back-to-back upset wins on the road and are scheduled to play a semifinal game Tuesday night at No. 2 Woodside Priory in Portola Valley. Photo from the Shelley Burcell Cain Facebook page

Three-quarters of the 2017 CIF Northern California Division V Final Four is what you would expect with the number 1, 2 and 4 seeds advancing.

Then there’s the 14 seed, Mount Shasta High School, still in it after a second consecutive road win, Saturday night’s 47-38 victory at No. 6 San Joaquin Memorial in Fresno.

Now the Bears (26-5) will make their third state playoff road trip in a week to play a Northern California semifinal against No. 2 Woodside Priory (20-9) Tuesday night in Portola Valley, about 5 miles south of Stanford University.

While Mount Shasta was defeating St. Bernard’s, 59-52, in a first round state playoff game Wednesday night in Eureka, Woodside Priory defeated No. 15 Hamilton 67-19.

The Bears beat Hamilton twice this season, 55-14 at Hamilton in mid-December and 67-34 in the Northern Section playoffs March 1 in Mount Shasta.

Coach Kirk Andrus said the Bears knew little about San Joaquin Memorial going into Saturday night’s game, but had watched some film on them.

“I knew it would be a tough atmosphere, which it was, a fine little gym that was packed pretty good because of the doubleheader,” Andrus wrote in a text message.

Going into the game, Andrus saw it as “a matchup of big, capable post players, slashing wings who can make the three and get to the basket, and a matchup of dynamic, diminutive, sophomore point guards.”

While Memorial, according to Andrus, “played tough, aggressive and athletic man D all over the court, rotating in 9 players,” the Bears “broke their press easily with patience and passing.”

Senior Emily Andrus finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds, 2 steals and an assist.

Senior Kacey Cain had 9 points, 11 rebounds, 3 of her 6 blocked shots in the third quarter, 3 assists, and a steal.

Sophomore point guard Lily Hitchcock made three 3-pointers and scored 13 points with 2 steals.

Senior post player Samantha Benedict had 5 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks, and an assist.

Junior Taryn Linares had 2 rebounds, an assist, a steal, and 3 deflections.

As described by coach Andrus, “it was a three point game with just over two minutes to play. Their press was unable to generate a turnover so they fouled Emily who made one free-throw to extend the lead 4. They came down and we forced a tough shot, got the rebound and they intentionally fouled Lily who made two free throws.

“Memorial was still not done. They came down and made a quick shot then fouled Emily after we broke their press. She made two free throws.

“The final margin was provided by breaking a desperation press with deft passing that led to a Sammi layup.”

Coach Andrus pointed to some of the highlights for his team:

• Emily Andrus’ third quarter defense, forcing turnovers;

• Cain “literally flying around the court blocking drives and perimeter jump shots (which really disconcerted them);”

• Linares “playing a ton of minutes” on a taped sprained ankle she suffered in the first half of the St. Bernard’s game. “Very courageous and gutsy. Showed her team a great example of toughness. Got one of the key deflections in the game in the 4th and led the team in deflections.”

• Hitchcock “dominating her matchup” and “totally shutting down” Memorial sophomore point guard Jada Shakoor, who had made nine 3-pointers in the previous two games.

After the Bears took an early 8-2 lead on a 3 by Hitchcock, a drive by Andrus, and a 3 by Cain, Memorial tied it at 12-12 when Shakoor hit “a driving left-handed pull-up floater from 14 feet” at the end of the first quarter.

Shakoor didn’t score again, thanks to Hitchcock’s “amazing effort,” Andrus wrote. He said Hitchcock played every minute of the game, and Shakoor only tried two threes.

Andrus said the Bears had some trouble scoring in the second quarter, “but were sustained by another Lily three-pointer and some successful drives to the basket by Kacey including an old fashion three-point play. Memorial started to get it going a little bit with drives to the basket by the athletic number 2, a spot up 3 by number 35, who was one of five or six girls who shot the three with great confidence for that team, and the three-point play by their post player,” who he described as “incredibly physical.”

The Bears trailed by a point at half time, 22-21, and “discussed the way we need to guard them,” Andrus wrote.

It worked, as Mount Shasta allowed just 2 points in the third quarter and went ahead 32-24.

“Lily never let number (Shakoor) get a good look at the basket,” according to Andrus. “Sammi and Kacey each blocked shots during that frame, and they were not just missing shots we were getting stops. We were becoming extremely active and getting our hands on basketballs. One of the keys was fronting in the post. Emily had to guard a much larger power forward and worked so hard to get in front of her that they threw the ball out of bounds trying to throw it over the top three times in a row. But a huge key was the way Sammi was guarding on the post. With Emily and Kacey and Taryn shutting down the wings Memorial made a big effort to get the ball inside. It was a physical battle and Sammi played dominant defense in the quarter until picking up her third foul midway through. Skyleigh Wall became a huge key for us as she came in and played exceptionally well, playing very tough defense and giving up only one basket though she was giving up about 60 pounds to her opponent who was attacking her violently and relentlessly.”

At the same time, Emily “absolutely took over” on offense. “She scored on the pull up jumper on the baseline to start the quarter, followed by a transition basket on a Kacey Cain deflection, followed by a three pointer on which she was fouled. Skyleigh Wall and Aliyah Hernandez ended the quarter on the floor and were able to maintain excellent defense.”

Memorial rallied in the fourth quarter and stayed close most of the way.

“They were pounding the ball inside and attacking the basket,” Andrus wrote. “Number two is a long athletic wing and she made some very nice drives. They were able to cut the lead to 4 midway through the quarter, then Lily responded with a three-pointer.”

Cain and Benedict both finished the game with 4 fouls each, but the Bears, but the Bears extended their lead down the stretch.