Kurt Howard
Going toe to toe and fingertip to fingertip, Micah Breland of Foster interrupts a shot by Evergreen's Mikel Abraha in their game Friday, Feb. 8. Foster won the game 58 -52 and advanced to the 2A Playoffs.

SLIDESHOW: Foster advances, Evergreen’s season ends as the Bulldogs win 58-52

by Kurt Howard

This game was a tiebreaker. This game would determine who would advance to the 2A playoffs and who would, as they say, go home.

Evergreen, coming off their victory at home over Foster last week, was looking to make it two in a row. They won a close contest, 58 to 52 in overtime to force this tiebreaker.

“It was tough to be put into the position to play back-to-back games here”, said Foster’s Coach Isaac Tucker. Well, you just have to do what you have to do, and this was no exception: Foster was ready and eager, as was Evergreen.

Before the game began there was a technical foul against Foster. Evergreen’s Chris Sainz would step up to the line and make one of two free throws, putting them ahead 1-0 without one tick off the clock.

After the center jump, it took a while for both teams to score. It wasn’t until the 5:14 mark in the first quarter that Evergreen scored its first field goal, and Foster’s was at 4:44.

This was a very intense, aggressive game as you would expect - it was playoff- style basketball. Both teams play a fast, running game and they cover a lot of court very quickly.

As the first quarter came to an end, Tyerel Brown of Foster hit a three-pointer from the corner at the buzzer. That proved to be a momentum lift for them. Foster had an 11-5 lead as Evergreen scored only two field goals in that quarter.

In the second quarter, Foster increased their lead and took a 24-16 score into the locker room. Good passing, good shot selections and teamwork helped them get to that point.

As the game progressed, foul trouble would plague both teams. “My three main players were in foul trouble throughout the game”, coach Tucker commented. Evergreen’s coach Tony White had that same problem with some of his players as well.

In games like this, there are usually momentum shifts that go back and forth - this time it went Evergreen’s way. In the third quarter, Evergreen started scratching their way back into the game. They would outscore Foster 17-12 and pull within three, 33-36.

Both teams mostly traded baskets in the fourth. With just three minutes to go in the game, Mikel Abraha of Evergreen hit a three-pointer, making the score 42-45. But then, Evergreen made some key mistakes down the stretch. A traveling call, a bad pass, a charge - these were critical turnovers, things you just can’t do and win close games. Foster took advantage of these and started pulling away again. The closest Evergreen would get in the second half was two points - they never tied or took the lead.

With 56 seconds to go in the game, Alex Campbell fouled out. As time ticked away, Evergreen needed to get the ball back, so they intentionally fouled. Foster made their foul shots and increased their lead - final score Foster 54, Evergreen 44.

What did Foster do differently to prepare for the game? Well, in the previous game Evergreens 6’5” Alex Campbell scored 18 points. “He hurt us pretty good Friday night”, Foster’s coach Isaac Tucker said. “He had his way, so we really focused on pinching down on him when he had the ball. I had one or two guys that were responsible for staying with him and have him to get rid of the ball, to make him uncomfortable. And our guys did a pretty good job, I don't know what he did score-wise but I know he didn't hurt us like he did the other night. That was the key to the game.”

Alex would only score 9 points for the game. Foster’s plan to shut him down worked. At times they doubled and triple teamed him, making it impossible for him to do much of anything.

“Free throws, our guys made some clutch free throws”, coach Tucker said. “On the season, we've lost at least two or three games because of free throws. We shoot 60% from the line; last Friday night we shot 16 of 27 in a game that went into overtime. Tonight the guys stepped up and made some clutch free throws that gave us our cushion. Without those free throws you don't know what would've happened, so those were big.”

Leading scorer for Evergreen was Chris Sainz with 14 points; 10 of those were free throws. Foster’s Jimaun Horton led his team with 13.

After the game, there were tears from some Evergreen players. For the seniors, it was the final high school game of their careers. For Foster, their team would play another day.

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