FROM AUBURN JOURNAL
In a battle for first place in the PVL the Hillmen came out on top with a 59-39 victory over the Cougars of Center.
At the end of the third quarter in Tuesdayâs Pioneer Valley League showdown in Antelope, Center Highâs Zharon Houston slammed the ball to cut Placerâs lead to five.
The gym was electric, the Cougars riding high. Placer, unfamiliar with the prospect of playing a team ahead of it in the standings, was one bad quarter away from a two-game losing streak and a daunting league deficit.
Enough of that, the Hillmen decided.
They came out at the start of the fourth quarter and clamped down on the Cougars, getting six stops in a row, and ran off 14 straight points to restore normalcy to the PVL with a 59-39 victory that was far tighter than the final score suggested.
âWe played with energy and heart throughout the game,â Placer coach Mark Lee said, âand so did Center. It was a hard-fought game.â
Jordan Ferreira, held to just 10 points in Placerâs shocking loss to Foothill on Thursday, rebounded in a big way, leading the Hillmen with 29 points, including 14 in the decisive fourth quarter in which Placer outscored Center 20-5. He also had 12 rebounds and a pair of steals.
Jeremy Lillis, Placerâs other senior stalwart, provided able support with 16 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals, much of his production coming in a first half marked by tight defense and lowing scoring.
Lillis had 10 points in the first quarter and 12 in the half, which ended with Placer nursing a 24-20 lead.
âBoth teams played pretty good defense,â Lee said. âEasy shots were hard to come by.â
It was a wire-to-wire win for Placer, but it was hardly an easy one. The Hillmen raced out to a 12-2 lead only to see the Cougars close to within 16-13 after one.
Kai Huntsberry, whoâd missed several games with illness, returned to the court and added six points, three assists and three steals.
âHe wasnât full strength,â Lee said. âHe got tired. But he sucked it up and played real tough, did a nice job of running the offense.â
Placer moved to 18-3, 3-1 PVL, and handed the Cougars their first league loss. The Hillmen will play host to Colfax on Thursday.