SANTA ANA >> Cruz Billings had 25 points to lead the Foothill boys’ basketball team to a 57-50 victory over rival Tustin in front of a large crowd at Foothill High.
Foothill (9-0) led by just one point early in the fourth quarter, but Billings’ 13 points in the frame helped seal the Knights victory.
âWe always find a way out at the end of it,â Billings said. “We are preparing for these training moments and it was not the first time that we have played in a big game.”
âTustin makes it difficult. They are a very well-trained team, âsaid Foothill coach Yousof Etemadi. âCruz is a difficult little player, but it was a team effort. Everyone who came has contributed and it’s a fun group to train.
Playing a rivalry match in front of a large crowd was a welcome break from the monotony of early-season tournaments.
âWe didn’t have that experience last year so it was a real pleasure,â Billings said.
âIt’s a great atmosphere to play,â Etemadi said. “The community really supports the program here and when we have big home games, everyone shows up.”
Foothill had a 13-9 lead at the end of the first quarter, but Tustin chased a 12-0 run early in the second quarter to take his biggest lead of the game. The Knights rebounded behind Billings’ nine points in the quarter and a late field goal from Colin Holt to take a 26-20 halftime lead.
Tustin (9-2) had a big third quarter to reduce the Knights’ lead to one. Eli Nyeazi had six points during the quarter and the Tillers defense kept Foothill at 11 points. Nyeazi finished the game with 9 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists.
After Billings made a few 3 runs to create a split it turned into a free throw game in the dying minutes. Foothill made 12 of 15 free throws in the fourth quarter. Billings had seven and Mikey Mazurie had two late in the game.
Tustin scored three points behind and converted his free throws to keep the game close. Tillers football star Tobey Schmidt had a pair of 3s in the fourth and Wasi Khan had 5 of 6 free throws. Schmidt had a high of 12 points and Khan had 11.
One of the keys to the game was Foothill’s defense forcing 20 turnovers and trying to pick up the pace.
âWe started running and squeezing a bit to mix things up because we like to go out in transition and we didn’t understand that,â Etemadi said. âThey did a good job slowing us down. We want to play in the 60s and they kept us down and it worked for most of the game, but we went wild in the fourth.
Foothill is 9-0 for the first time since 2011 and has beaten Tustin two consecutive seasons. The Knights face Edison at the Corona del Mar Beach Bash on Saturday.
Tustin has a home game against Long Beach Cabrillo on Friday, December 17th.