Eagles lose championship to Lassen
Golden Eagle Dion Hutt leaps up over Lassen’s Garrick Wilson during the Feb. 21 game for the Golden Valley Conference championship. After being behind at the half, Lassen came back to take the game 92-85. Photos by James Wilson
The Feather River Golden Eagles’ men’s basketball team had nothing but the highest hopes for last Thursday’s game against Lassen. The Eagles went into the game with a 7-2 record against 8-2 Lassen. All other teams in the Golden Valley Conference had already lost at least three games.
The game not only decided the GVC championship, but the winner also advanced to the playoffs.
In a close game that had a packed gym jumping up and down, Lassen beat FRC 92-85 to end the Eagles’ season.
The last time the two teams faced each other, Lassen won 79-67. Feather River came a long way since the last game, however, and Lassen made sure its confidence wasn’t misplaced.
“I know Feather River is a very good team,” said Lassen’s head coach Devin Aye. “They were peaking in performance right before this last game. They are one of those teams that can keep a roll going once they get hot.”
Feather River’s coach Randy Rick works out a strategy with his team with seconds left on the clock. The Eagles’ last attempt didn’t pan out and Lassen extended its lead by two more points.
Lassen began the game the strongest team and quickly jumped to a 10-point lead. Feather River realized Lassen’s defensive tactics, however, and switched its strategy to focus on the long shots.
In the first half the Eagles made an astonishing 11 three-pointers. Feather River quickly came back and ended up leading at the half 46-42.
Lassen came into the second half a more aggressive team and dominated the rebounds.
“Lassen is very quick and very athletic,” said FRC’s coach Randy Rick. “They deserve a lot of credit for being a good team.”
Another major adjustment Lassen made was to get out of playing zone and focus more on man coverage. The Eagles were forced to make their way closer to the net and weren’t as successful as they were with the long shots. Within four minutes Lassen came back to tie the game 52-52.
Once Lassen switched up to man coverage, the Cougars began stealing the ball more, putting a quick stop to any Eagle scoring attempts. Lassen quickly got up 65-60.
Feather River made a series of impressive plays and once again got in the game to tie it 68-68. That was the closest the Eagles came.
Lassen was up 80-74 with five minutes remaining. A few minutes later the Cougars were up 85-76.
Once the clock got down to two minutes, Lassen tried to keep the ball as long as possible during its possessions. Feather River intentionally fouled Lassen to switch possessions, but Lassen kept making its free-throws.
Aaron Brown contributed multiple three-pointers for the Eagles, and scored a total of 29 points during the game. Andrew Lotts Jr. continued to lead the team on both sides of the court. Lotts scored 24 points.
“I always tell my players every year that the championship has to go through Feather River,” said Rick. “For our team to end up playing at home for the conference title was unbelievable. That was the biggest turnout our team has ever seen.”
In a letter to Eagles fans before the game, Rick expressed his views on his team and the level of achievement they reached this season.
“Our (players) have formed a brotherhood, pulled together and have made it to this last performance; one they will remember for the rest of their lives,” wrote Rick.
FRC wasn’t even mentioned in the pre-season review of the GVC and was ranked fourth in the conference before the season started. However, despite the loss to Lassen, FRC came in second in conference.
“There is no way to lose at this point,” continued Rick in his letter. “Even if we come up short on the scoreboard we are winners because of the approach we’ve taken along our journey.”