East County Sports

Foothillers prove their moxie to roar past Cougars

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Grossmont’s Matt Murray harasses a Steele Canyon ball handler Friday night in Spring Valley. / photo by Ramon Scott



By James McHugh
© East County Sports.com


RANCHO SAN DIEGO (2-20-16) – The Grossmont Foothillers have been through a lot over the past few weeks, losing their second leading scorer, then down went big man TOMMY RUTHERFORD, who showed up at Steele Canyon Friday night (Feb. 19) on crutches with a boot on his right foot.


According to Rutherford his doctor has estimated that he will be sidelined 2-6 weeks, however Rutherford is trying to see if he can play come CIF playoff time. The Foothillers won a thrilling 73-72 battle with Steele Canyon on the Cougars’ home court, thrusting the Foothillers into quite a conundrum for those playoffs.


Instead of securing the No. 1 seed in the Division 1 playoffs, by way of a number of Grossmont and El Camino’s previous opponents winning or losing on Friday, the Foothillers jumped El Camino into eighth place in the San Diego Section Power Rankings. As of late Friday evening Grossmont stood at 48.88 while the Wildcats’ Power Ranking was 48.86, meaning Grossmont may be headed for an Open Division showdown with Section No 1, and nationally ranked Foothills Christian.


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EastCountySports.com photo

Before the madness of possible playoff matchups began, Grossmont and Steele Canyon embarked on the final game of the regular season with a great deal of pressure thrust upon the Foothillers’ supporting cast.


Steele Canyon thoroughly outplayed Grossmont in the first half, winning the hustle plays, getting the 50/50 balls and getting to the basket time and time again in Rutherford’s absence. The one thing the Cougars seemingly didn’t do well, was put the Foothillers away.


Trailing by 11 at the half, Grossmont battled and battled and clawed and chipped away at the Steele Canyon lead. DAYVEION CRAWFORD put the Hillers on his back, scoring six of his team high 16-points during the third. “Coach told me to slow it down, to drive and look for the kick, and if it wasn’t there to keep going to the basket. But he wanted me to slow things down and he wanted us to step up on defense,” Crawford said of the third quarter run that fueled Grossmont to victory.


The one positive for Steele Canyon, as the third quarter was heading to a close, was that through Grossmont’s 18-10 lead in the quarter to that point, the Cougars had still maintained the lead. That’s when JACOB NISKEY stepped in and deflated the last bit of air in the Cougars’ balloon of hope. With exactly one second remaining the Foothillers set up for an inbound play under their own hoop, trailing 52-50. The pass went to Niskey who very alertly hucked up a somewhat shotput-esque heave from beyond the arc and found nothing but net.


“Niskey did a good job inside for us tonight,” coach FRANK FOGGIANO  said after the victory. But it was likely Niskey’s third quarter toss that remained in the minds of the Hillers and Cougars when the night was through.


“That was an amazing shot,” said Cougars coach DEREK STEPHENS of Niskey’s miraculous launch.


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Steele Canyon’s Nick Hodge brings the ball up the floor Friday night. / photo by Ramon Scott

In the fourth quarter Grossmont used a 9-1 run to take its largest lead of the night at 67-60 after a HUNTER MULDER free throw and a more conventional basket from Niskey. The Cougars battled back with a chance to win on three separate possessions. Over the course of eight minutes however Steele Canyon missed eight free throws which could have eliminated their last second three-point attempt that hit back iron and was recovered by Grossmont’s MATT MURRAY for one of his 20 rebounds on the night.


AMIR HARRIS finished the night with 21 points for SteeleCanyon, leading all scorers on the night. Harris also hit two free throws down the stretch to bring the Cougars within striking distance at 73-72 in the final minutes. Unfortunately for Harris and the Cougars the score remained that way until the final buzzer had sounded.


“Every guy I put out there tonight did what I asked him to do. I subbed a lot and each guy did his part. That’s all you can ask of your team. They came together as a team when they needed to,” Foggiano said of his team’s comeback win which secured the Grossmont Hills League title outright due to a West Hills loss at Helix.


Saturday (Feb. 20) afternoon the CIF Playoff brackets are expected to be released at approximately 1:00 PM at the San Diego Section Offices. Grossmont will either be thrust into the Open Division for a likely showdown with Foothills Christian, or placed as the No. 1 seed in the Division 1 playoffs, in which case they could see Mission Hills as their first round opponent. An Open Division bid would ensure the Hillers a guarantee of State Playoff action, meaning that Rutherford could see more action this season. If the Foothillers are placed in Division 1 they will need to advance to the Division 1 Championship in order to advance to the State Tournament.


Grossmont:  Dayveion Crawford 16 (3 reb, 6 ast, 2 stl), Matt Murray 14 (20 reb, 2 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk), Jacob Niskey 10 (5 reb, 1 ast, 1 stl, 2 blk), Alex Lilliard 7 (1 ast), Hunter Mulder 7 (1 reb), Branik Brown 6 (1 reb, 1 ast), Hunter Gaines 5 4 reb, 2 stl), Ryan Shirley 4 (2 stl), Jonah Hebel 4 (2 reb, 1 ast).


Steele Canyon:  Amir Harris 21 (4 reb, 2 stl), Javon Nutter 13 (11 reb, 1 ast, 4 stl, 2 blk), Nick Hodge 9 (3 reb, 3 ast, 4 stl, 1 blk), Gage Sanders 8 (3 reb, 1 ast, 1 stl), DeAngelo Lewis 8 (1 reb), Jalen Sayles 5 (3 reb, 1 blk), Marcus White 3 (1 ast), Nick Barns 3 (3 reb, 1 stl), Kyree Woods 2 (1 reb), Tyler Smith (2 reb)

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