For the third straight year, North Fremont’s boys basketball team accomplished a first.
Last season, the Huskies won their first district title. The year before, they won their first state title. And on Wednesday, they won their first back-to-back district title, beating a determined Firth team 47-45.
Firth led for nearly the entire first two quarters while the Huskies kept it close, then North Fremont broke out and scored in bunches at the end of the second and for most of the third.
After Firth amassed a 27-24 lead, North Fremont went on a 6-2 run to end the quarter then started the third on a 7-0 run.
North Fremont head coach Shannon Hill said hitting shots and being aggressive played important roles in the team's run — but said defense catalyzed the run.
“Defense is the key to our game and that’s what turned it around for us,” Hill said. “It’s not anything on the offensive end other than getting points off of turnovers because (the Huskies') defense. We didn’t do a very good job of that in the first half and we did just enough in the second half.”
Firth made a couple runs in the fourth but North Fremont kept answering. Jordan Lenz hit 3 of 4 free throws down the stretch, which helped the Huskies hold on.
In each of the two teams' district tournament matchups, Firth has gotten about as close to beating North Fremont as anyone has this season. Hill attributes the Cougars' ability to run with his squad to three factors.
“First of all, they have a lot of talent at Firth,” Hill said. “They have a lot of good basketball players. Then they have a really good coach and coaching staff. And we’re rivals so no game is ever easy. That’s what makes it special.”
Hill said he expects Firth to win its play-in game to make it to the state tournament and said he wouldn’t be surprised if the teams meet up in the state tournament.
Hill said his players grit has been the key to his team’s historic run.
“These kids have a ton of grit,” Hill said. “They have a never-say-die attitude. That’s really the bottom line. My hat is off to these kids because they’re just a great bunch of kids. They work hard in practice. They work hard in the games. And I don’t have to worry about any of them off of the court. That’s a huge deal.”
Hill said his team will focus on one game at a time in the state tournament.
Maybe that will be an effective strategy in helping the Huskies get a second first this season — a third straight state title.
“We have as good of a shot as anybody who’s going to be at that tournament,” Hill said. “We have a very tough, competitive league. We’ve been tested all year and I think that’s going to be a benefit to us coming into the state tournament.”
NORTH FREMONT 47, FIRTH 45
North Fremont: 11 13 9 14—47
Firth: 12 14 6 13—45
North Fremont: Jordan Lenz 22, Luke Hill 10, AJ Hill 6, Hank Richardson 2 Jobie Palmer 5, Bronson Childs 2
Firth: K. Arave 6, K Jacobsen 6, J. Howell 9, A. Jacobsen 10, T. Jacobsen 10, K. Longhurst 2, A. Blonquist 2
- Koster Kennard, Standard Journal
Grace 61, Butte County 49