May 30, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: Foothill turns back Tustin’s challenge to stay undefeated

Foothill’s senior point guard Cruz Billings goes through traffic and into the basket late in the second quarter as Carson Jue of Tustin defends. (Photos: Fernando M. Donado, For OC Sports Zone).

Friday’s early season non-league boys basketball contest showcased two local rivals, undefeated Foothill against one-loss Tustin in front of a near capacity crowd at Foothill.

The anticipated clash did not fall short of expectation as the Knights, behind Cruz Billings 25 points, pulled away late to register a 57-50 victory at Foothill High.

Billings, a senior guard, scored 13 of his game-high 25 points in the fourth-quarter, extending Foothill’s undefeated record to 9-0. The Tillers dropped to 9-2.

“It’s not our first big game, we’ve been here before,” said Billings. “We stuck to the game plan and played tough defense and our trust and chemistry is continuing to build.”

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


The Knights held a 37-36 lead as the fourth quarter began.

Billings drilled two three-pointers and then sunk seven free throws to give Foothill a 55-46 lead with 33 seconds to play. Tobey Schmidt nailed a three-pointer to cut the lead to 55-50 with 17 seconds left, but Jacob Horton converted two free throws down the stretch to seal the Knights win.

“Cruz (Billings) is a three-year varsity starter and he’s been making big shots for us for a long while,” said Foothill Coach Yousef Etemadi. “Tustin is always tough, but we executed in the fourth-quarter and playing in front of a packed house always makes it more enjoyable.”

Mikey Mazurie scored eight points for the Knights and Braedyn Benhard added seven points.

“This is exciting, I’ve never been 9-0 before,” said Mazurie, a senior guard. “We practice hard and we’re unselfish in the game and we executed tonight and that was the difference.”

Foothill did play aggressive defense and forced 20 turnovers, but the Tillers managed to hang around and never let up.

The Knights built an eight-point first-quarter lead but Julian Flores’ three pointer cut the lead to 13-9 after eight minutes of play. The Tillers surged ahead 18-13 midway through the second-quarter, following a Flores’ basket, but Billings led a 13-2 Foothill run in the final minutes of the half that gave the Knights 26-20 lead at the break. 

Tustin went on a spurt late in the third-quarter to recapture the lead 32-31 on a layup by Eli Nyeazi, but Mazurie hit back-to-back baskets in the final 90 seconds to give Foothill a 37-36 lead after three quarters.

“We played hard but when you don’t execute, you don’t win, that’s half the battle,” said Tustin Coach Ringo Bossenmeyer. “They’re a top 10 team in the county and we played with them but we have to execute better. We’ll learn from this.”

Flores and Schmidt each scored 12 points and Wasi Khan added 11 points to lead the Tillers. 

—Tom Connolly, For OC Sports Zone