Basketball

Clutch Corsairs answer the call in ‘must-win game’

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File photo – CR head coach Ryan Bisio talks to Drew Gillette during a recent game.

The Corsairs overcame a major hurdle in their drive towards a Golden Valley Conference championship in men’s basketball on Saturday, winning 83-77 at Butte College.

In what head coach Ryan Bisio described as a “must-win game,” the College of the Redwoods men answered the call to remain in control of their own destiny and the frontrunners in the race for the championship.

“What an interesting journey for us to get to 6-2 in conference,” said Bisio, whose team responded to an upset loss at Siskiyous on Thursday with a clutch performance on Saturday against a powerhouse Roadrunners team that almost never loses at home.

Thomas Nelson was inspirational again for Redwoods as he has been all season long, finishing with a team-high 23 points.

“Thomas, he was outrageous all weekend,” Bisio said of the former Arcata Tiger, who also had a huge game on Thursday. 

Donald Willis also stepped up at Butte, scoring 19 points in a game the Corsairs led the entire way.

CR led by as many as 20 points late in the first half, before the Roadrunners cut the deficit to as few as four. But the visitors dug deep late to pull out the win.

“This was the first time we framed it to our guys that this was a must-win game,” Bisio said. “There will be more must-win games this season, and we wanted to see how they would respond. And we were better than I could have anticipated.”

Drew Gillette was held to just six points, but had a big impact in the win nonetheless, attracting a lot of attention from the opposition, something the former Fortuna standout can expect to see more and more as he quickly adapts to the collegiate level.

“He was circled and underlined on their scoring report” Bisio said. “And Drew did a great job.”

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Zac Claus also continued to impress, scoring 14 points, while Bradley Willis finished with 13, as the Corsairs improved to 6-2 in the GVC (19-5 overall) with two games remaining, both of which are at home.

With Shasta also winning on Saturday, 96-61 at Siskiyous, the Knights are now 5-3 in conference and just one game back of CR.

Butte (4-4) is third, followed by Feather River (3-4), which has a game in hand.

The CR men return home to play Feather River next Saturday, followed by their regular-season finale against Shasta the following Wednesday in what is likely to be a championship decider.

Shasta, which hosts Lassen in its other remaining game, is one of the two teams to have beaten CR in the GVC.

The CR men appear to know what’s at stake, and were up for Saturday’s battle after the disappointment of two nights ago.

“I just loved our energy,” Bisio said. “We came out with a focus I’m not sure we’ve seen this year from these guys.”

The Corsairs have won all 13 games this season in which they’ve scored 80 or more points.

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