June 15, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Foothill celebrates outright league title with road victory over Canyon

Foothill players and coaches celebrate league title after Thursday’s win. (Photos: Tom Connolly, For OC Sports Zone).

For the first time in a decade the Foothill boys basketball team has won a league championship outright.

The Knights, behind the outstanding play of Travis Paleo, Mansur McClain and Isaiah Bernard-Lopez, held off a stubborn Canyon squad en route to a 69-58 victory Thursday night in the final regular season game of the Crestview League.

After sharing a couple of league titles over the last 10 years, Foothill (20-8, 6-0) goes undefeated in league to win its first league title since the 2014-15 season.

“Travis and Mansur stepped up big for us and it’s the first time in a long time that Foothill has won a league championship outright,” said Knights Coach Yousof Etemadi. “Travis and Mansur kept making shots and at the end of the day we’re league champions and we’ll going to the playoffs.”

Paleo, despite battling an ailing left knee, drilled five 3-pointers and scored a game-high 23 points. His 3-pointer with 1:15 to play sealed the victory for the Knights.

“I wanted the team to have a big game tonight,” said Paleo. “This is the first time winning league title outright for me and I’m hyped.”

After going scoreless in the first half, McClain was on fire in the third quarter, as the junior forward nailed three 3-pointers and scored 15 points in the quarter. However, the Comanches (21-7, 4-2) trailed only 45-42 after three periods.

“We played well together tonight; we slowed it down and it’s exciting to be league champions,” McClain said.

Bernard-Lopez had a huge game for the Knights, scoring seven points. He hauled down 14 rebounds, dished out five assists and blocked three shots.  

After being down early, Foothill hit three 3-pointers in the final 90 seconds of the first quarter and led 18-15 after eight minutes of play. Both teams cooled off in the second period only scoring a combined 12 points in the quarter. The Knights held a 24-21 lead at the break.

McClain’s 3-pointer at the 5:53 mark of the third quarter gave Foothill momentum and a 36-27 lead. But Canyon, led by Josh Goodall and Staf Yilmazturk ignited a Comanches comeback. Goodall’s three baskets down the stretch cut the lead to 45-42 after three quarters. 

Canyon stayed within striking distance in the fourth quarter. Yilmazturk’s bucket with 1:50 left cut the lead to 59-56. But the Comanches were only able to score one basket the rest of the way.

In addition, Canyon starting guard, Jeremy Loreto, suffered leg cramps and left the game with 2:03 to play. He did not return. Loreto and Goodall each scored 17 points for Canyon and Yilmazturk added 13 points.  

Despite the loss, Canyon Coach Nate Harrison remained upbeat about the CIF playoffs next week.

“I tip my hat to Goodall and Mansur; when kids play like that against you, it’s hard to win,” said Harrison, who is in his 22nd year as the Canyon coach.

“We’re proud of our guys. We went toe-to-toe with a very good team and we’re looking forward to the playoffs. We are going to be a tough out for somebody. There’s one thing for sure you can count on, this Canyon team will be ready and we will be tough to beat.”

Etemadi also praised his team following the game.

“I told our guys when you remain focused and stay disciplined you can reach your goals and tonight we did something that hasn’t been done at Foothill in a long time,” Etemadi added.

Danny Kennard also scored 10 points for Foothill.

“This is a new experience for me to win a league championship,” said Kennard. “We played hard defense and we’ve had ups and downs this season, but recently we are playing really well.”

Note: Canyon’s top player Jaden Goodall, averaging 21.5 points and eight rebounds per game did not play. “He’s still battling a knee injury, and we’re not sure if he’ll be ready for the playoffs; it’s a big hole without him. We miss him,” said Harrison.

For full view, click on the photo:

—Tom Connolly, For OC Sports Zone