East County Sports

Hillers’ playoff road ends at home of champions

Grossmont huddles prior to its CIF state regional playoff game at Gardena Serra on Saturday night.

SoCal Regional CIF Playoffs


By Bill Dickens

© East County Sports.com

GARDENA (3-13-16) — Six-foot-9 senior center TOMMY RUTHERFORD was on top of his game during Saturday’s (Mar. 12) SoCal Regional quarterfinals against Gardena Serra.


The Grossmont High standout knocked down 32 points, grabbed 19 rebounds, blocked 4 shots, dished 2 assists and made 2 steals for the Foothillers (23-8).


Trouble was, Rutherford did not receive much offensive support as the host Cavaliers prevailed 65-50.


“I think their press really hurt us because we turned the ball over more than we have in any game this year,” Foothillers coach FRANK FOGGIANO said. “They were very good on their man pressure and almost as good in their 2-2-1 zone press.


“Gardena Serra is the fastest team we’ve played all year. They couldn’t stop Tommy but we didn’t get the ball to him as much as we should have,” Foggiano added.


The Foothillers made a game of it for the nearly three quarters. After falling behind early 25-13 Grossmont scrambled back to slash the deficit to 36-33 on a 3-point bucket by JACOB NISKEY.


At that point Serra went on an 8-0 run and appeared to have the game in hand, 44-33.


But once again Grossmont fought back on the inside play of Rutherford and Niskey. A basket by Niskey capped a 7-0 run, leaving the Foothillers down only 44-40 early in the fourth quarter.


That’s where Grossmont stalled in the back and forth duel.


“This was an exciting experience for all of us,” said Foggiano who posted his most victories in a single season in 40 years. “For the things we had to go through I thought we had a great season.”


Rutherford had six points in the first, as the Hillers trailed, 13-10. He scored 15 of Grossmont’s first 29 points, helping his team stay within 29.25. Both teams made a living at the line early, as Grossmont hit 11 of their first 13 attempts, while the Cavaliers were 8 of their first 9.


Rutherford had 25 points through three periods. Mason Chipley led Serra with 18 points for the contest.


Grossmont:  Tommy Rutherford 32 (19 reb, 2 ast, 2 stl, 4 blk), Hunter Gaines 8 (3 reb, 1 ast, 1 stl), Jacob Niskey 6 (4 reb, 2 stl), Matt Murray 4 (6 reb, 1 ast, 1 stl).

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