The Santa Clarita Christian School boys basketball team found itself in uncharted territory late in Monday night’s game against Valley Torah.
For the first time in 11 Heritage League games, the Cardinals trailed heading into the fourth quarter.
Pitted against a Valley Torah team that it had seen for the second time in less than a week, SCCS trailed by seven points at the end of the third quarter.
SCCS captured the lead with less than a minute to play — it’s first lead since the first 30 seconds of the game — and held on for a 54-51 win over Valley Torah at Bross Court at The Master’s University.
The Cardinals (15-9, 11-0 Heritage League) clinched their first Heritage League title since 2013 and fourth in team history as students rushed the court when the final buzzer sounded.
“Unbelievable atmosphere,” said Jordan Starr, who led SCCS with 16 points, eight rebounds and three assists. “ … The fans were crazy. Everybody was going crazy. We were down and we had to fight through adversity and it makes it that much sweeter.”
Starr, who had 10 of his points in the fourth quarter, finished an and-one play to put the Cardinals down 51-49 with just under three minutes to play in the game. A few possessions later, and with under two minutes to play, Starr hit a floater from just inside the free-throw line to tie up the contest at 51-51.
After an attempted shot from Kaleb Lowery flew out of bounds, Justin Collins picked off the ensuing inbound pass and put the Cardinals up 53-51 with a layup.
Lowery made 1 of 2 free throws before Valley Torah’s (23-6, 9-2) Nadiv Altit came up empty from 3-point range on the final possession of the game.
“We dealt with some adversity, which we haven’t really had in a while,” said SCCS coach James Mosley. “They showed a lot of maturity.”
Collins’ go-ahead points put the Cardinals up for the first time since a 1-0 lead in the first 30 seconds of the game. Caden Starr was the only other SCCS player to score in double digits and finished with 14 points.
“We just had way more high-IQ basketball plays in the second half,” Caden Starr said. “We definitely relaxed more the later it got in the game.”
SCCS trailed 28-21 at the half, which had them on pace for a season-low points total.
While they struggled on offense, the Cards picked up the slack on defense. Lowery had three blocks to go with seven rebounds and five points. Noah Veluzat had a team-high two steals, along with seven points.
“This is kind of like playoff basketball, where you’ve seen each other and you know everything,” Mosley said. “It really gets mucky and dirty in terms of you don’t get easy buckets.”
Ryan Turell had a game-high 33 points when SCCS beat the Wolf Pack last Tuesday. But a contingent of Cardinals defenders, including Jordan Starr and Veluzat, held him to 14 points Monday night. Altit led all scorers with 18 points.
SCCS, which was ranked second in Monday’s CIF-Southern Section Division 5AAA poll, closes out its regular season on 7 p.m. Tuesday against Faith Baptist at SCCS.