Weed Cougars hold off Raiders for playoff victory

Dave Sjostedt
Junior Danny Formhals puts up a three-point shot for the Weed Cougars during their 55-46 victory over Burney in a first round Northern Section Division 6 playoff game Tuesday night, Feb. 20, 2018, in Weed.

An old sports adage proclaims that it’s hard to beat a league foe three times. Weed had defeated playoff opponent Burney twice, by 40 and 15 point margins, but had to pull away in the final 3 minutes for a 55-46 win at home Tuesday night. The victory moved the Cougars on to round two of the Division 6 postseason tournament and a Thursday night game at the Loyalton Grizzlies.

Tough defense and cold shooting by both teams led to a low-scoring first half with the Cougars leading 32-27 at the break. Weed upped their pressure in the 3rd quarter and seemed to have the game in control with a 10 point advantage starting the 4th quarter, but they’d lost senior guard Jason Ross, who Coach Robert West called “the heart and soul of our team,” to an ankle injury. The final quarter became a struggle as Weed’s lead was down to 47-46 with 2:36 left to play.

Burney’s Chris Phipps, the second 6’7” center the Cougars have faced in their last two contests, fouled out with 3:26 to go in the game, and Weed scored the last 8 points with Angel Nicholas scoring twice and playing scrappy defense.

Cougar center Harley Williams, who averaged 8 rebounds a game during the season, played Phipps tough, outscoring him 14 to 12 and holding his own on the boards.

Xavia Martinez scored 13 points, Nicholas 12, Danny Formhals 12 and Austin Robbins and Tripp Rodriguez 2 each. Formhals also drew a charge and made 2 three-pointers.

Weed (13-10) now moves on to play the Pioneer League champ Grizzlies. Loyalton, a small Sierra County town of 936 souls, is only 20 miles from the Nevada border and 220 miles and four-plus hours from Weed. Coach West hoped to drive down on Wednesday and stay at a hotel that night but couldn’t arrange it, so the team will leave at 7 a.m. on Thursday and make several stops along the way to lessen travel stress.

Jason Ross’s status for the game is questionable and Coach West said “it would be a big loss for us, but he’s a tough kid so we’ll see.” Otherwise, “It’s next man up” says West. “It will come down to energy.”

The Cougars are seeded No. 5 and Loyalton (17-7) No. 4 in the playoff bracket.

In other Tuesday night Division 6 games, No. 7 Big Valley edged No. 10 Etna in Bieber, 56-55, No. 6 American Christian Academy got by No. 11 Biggs, 77-75, and No. 8 Chester defeated No 9 Maxwell, 65-44.