June 15, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Strong defense and big finish lifts Foothill past Tustin in annual crosstown battle

Foothill’s Rocco Gaffoglio defends against Tustin’s Aidan Thonn Friday night. (Photos: Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone).

Foothill High School’s boys basketball team, ranked 10th in the county, held off a tough challenge from Tustin to capture a hard-fought 42-31 non-league victory over the Tillers Friday night in front of a near capacity crowd at Tustin.

Foothill (8-4) was led by Isaiah Bernard, who had 11 points and eight rebounds; Travis Paleo, who had 10 points; Danny Kennard, who had nine points and eight rebounds and Jordan Martin, who had seven points.

Defense was the difference in the game between two Tustin Unified District rivals who are in different leagues. The home site for the game is rotated each year.

“I thought we were phenomenal on defense,” said Foothill Coach Yousof Etemadi. “We’ve been harping on getting better on the defensive end and we were really good tonight. I think we kept them around 40 points. The hands were up and we were talking and we were switching and that’s what we like to see in these games.”

To see additional photos, click on the first picture:

While the scoring was on the low side, especially in the first half, the game was intense and cleanly played and the scoring picked up in the second half. Dunks by the 6-11 Kennard and the 6-5 Bernard got the Knights fans fired up.

“This rivalry game is tough, year after year, no matter who is where, it’s always going to be a tough game. They jam you up and they get up in you and they were good tonight,” Etemadi said.

Tustin led 9-6 after the first quarter but Foothill moved out to a 16-15 halftime lead. The Knights held a four point lead going into the final stanza.

Foothill jumped out to a seven point lead in the fourth quarter but Tustin (5-6) cut the lead to 35-31 on a 3-pointer by John Villagrana with 1:50 left. However a Foothill basket and a 3-pointer by Kennard with about a minute remaining put the Knights ahead 40-31.

“I think we executed very well on offense and on defense I think we were at the right spots at all times and it forced them into a lot of turnovers and missed shots,” said Paleo, a 6-1 junior. “It’s always a tough one no matter how good both teams are. I think it’s always a good, competitive battle and it’s good that we won this game.”

Villagrana had 10 points and Ethan Contreras nine points to lead Tustin.

Tillers coach Ringo Bossenmeyer saw some encouraging play from his team.

“I am extremely proud of our effort and passion on the defensive side of the ball,” Bossenmeyer said. “To hold a talented and very well coached Foothill team to 42 points takes preparation and attention to detail. We obviously have to find a way to generate more production offensively.

“However, if we continue to play with purposeful intensity defensively and take care of the ball as we did tonight, we have a legitimate chance to be a difficult team to play as the season progresses.”

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