Foothill boys fumble at finish, hold on to top Eldorado

Through three quarters Friday, Foothill’s boys basketball team held a cushy lead over Eldorado. And that was nearly the Falcons’ downfall.

Foothill overcame 12 fourth-quarter turnovers to hold on for its 14th victory in a row, 82-74 over the visiting Sundevils.

“Comfortable is the key word,” Foothill coach Kevin Soares said. “We got real comfortable, and Eldorado didn’t quit. Credit to them for making it real tough down the stretch.”

The Falcons (17-3, 6-0 Southeast League) led 58-37 entering the fourth quarter, but a flurry of turnovers helped Eldorado rally. The Sundevils got as close as 76-70 on a 3-pointer by junior Jayveon Brown with 1:28 left.

Brown led the surge by Eldorado (11-8, 4-2), hitting six 3-pointers in the quarter, during which he scored 22 of his game-high 26 points.

“He’s a kid, if he hits two or three, you’re in trouble,” Soares said. “He gets it going real quick, and some of the stuff he threw up, man, it looked like it was going in every time.”

Austin Starr made four free throws in the final 44 seconds to help seal the win for Foothill, which struggled at the line earlier in the game. Starr finished with 25 points and six rebounds, and guard Elijah Smith supplied 28 points, 11 rebounds, four steals and three assists.

But Soares was most concerned with his team’s ballhandling. The Falcons had 29 turnovers, and the problem was at its worst in the fourth quarter, at least in part because starting point guard Jalen

Shepard was sidelined. He limped off the court after taking a hard foul with 4:35 to play in the third quarter and didn’t return.

Still, Foothill had experienced guards on the floor, including three-year starter Smith.

“The thing that’s frustrating is you’ve got guards that have played for us for three years now, and they didn’t do a good job of handling the pressure,” Soares said. “That’s something we’ve got to fix right away before the playoffs start.”

While the Falcons’ guards were inconsistent, forward Chris Echols gave a solid performance, especially on the glass. The 6-foot-5-inch senior grabbed 19 rebounds and added eight points and six assists.

“Chris is one of our better players,” Soares said. “The thing he’s got to work on is consistency. I know he gets tired a little bit, but we need him out there. So he’s got to fight through it and play a full 32 minutes if we need him to.”

D.J. Billingsley added 14 points and 10 rebounds for Eldorado, which got 13 points by D’Quan Crockett.

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