July 18, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: Big second quarter lifts top-seeded Foothill past Los Altos for CIF SoCal Regional title

Foothill players and coaches celebrate after winning the Division II Southern California Regional title Tuesday night. (Photos: Fernando M. Donado, For OC Sports Zone).

Foothill High School senior Cruz Billings has had many big games for the Knights this season.

But his play Tuesday, especially in the second quarter of Tuesday night’s CIF Division II Southern California Regional final against Los Altos, may be at the top of the list.

Billings scored 10 of his 14 points in the stanza to help top-seeded Foothill outscore Los Altos 17-9. The Knights took a 26-20 lead at the break and held on for a 46-41 victory over the No. 2-seeded team to earn a trip to the Division II state championship game Saturday at 4 p.m. against Elkgrove at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.

Los Altos looked like it was going to give Foothill quite a battle when it jumped to an 11-9 lead after one quarter before the Knights took control.

“It’s a long time coming, we came up short in CIF Southern Section so we wanted this really bad,” said Billings, who also had five assists and was named the game MVP. “We knew we had to prepare well for every team because every game was going to be a battle and a competitive game.”

“He fights and fights and fights and he just comes up with big plays after big plays and the kid works really hard and shows up at these kind of games,” said Foothill’s third year coach Yousof Etemadi. “I’m proud of him, but I’m also proud of all my guys.”

To see the slide show, click on the first picture:

The game was tied 18-18 late in the second quarter before Billings took over, capping the half with a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

“My teammates just found me in the right spots,” Billings said. “I feel like those are good shots for me so I just took them when I was open. I’m so proud of my guys.”

Etemadi was able to celebrate the program’s first So Cal title with players, assistant coaches and supporters, who poured onto the court. The Foothill gymnasium was filled to capacity and included many fans from Los Altos as well.

“It was stagnant at first and we were playing their game,” said Etemadi. “The big guy (7-1 center Jazz Gardner) really clogged the middle for us, we were able to open up a little bit and speed the pace up and when we were able to do that, I think we hit a couple three’s and started getting into our own game.

“We want to play fast pace basketball, that slow-paced basketball doesn’t really work to our favor when they have such a big kid in the middle.”

Foothill led 39-27 after three quarters. Los Altos made a slight run in the fourth quarter, cutting the lead to 41-35 on a 3-pointer by Gardner.

Los Altos (26-7) cut it to four points later in the quarter but the Knights were able to make key free throws to ice the win.

Mikey Mazurie added 13 points and four rebounds, Jake Horton had seven points and three rebounds and Carlo Billings scored six points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Foothill.

Gardner led Los Altos with 20 points. CJ Bellamy added nine points.

Foothill students in the place they call “The Dungeon” poured out to celebrate with the Knights.

“I want to thank all of my coaches, the coaching staff was amazing this year,” added the Knights’ Mikey Mazurie. “We have a great group of guys one through 15, we all play together and that’s what makes this group special. At the end of the day, we played our hearts out and played to the best of our ability and we got the job done. it’s a tremendous season and we came home with the win. I couldn’t be more thankful and proud of this group of guys.”

Top-seeded Elkgrove defeated Branson 60-54 to win the Northern California Regional title Tuesday.

“We’re going to let this one soak in and enjoy it tonight,” added Etemadi. “Then we will get back to the drawing board. This is fun, this is what high school basketball should be about always.”

—Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com