Cards boys basketball carves up San Diego in state tournament

Santa Clarita Christian's Kaleb Lowery (11) drives through San Diego defenders to score during the CIF Division 5 state tournament held at The Master's University in Santa Clarita on Tuesday. Dan Watson/ For The Signal

Throughout all the heart-pounding, high-adrenaline plays in Santa Clarita Christian boys basketball’s game against San Diego, Cardinals coach James Mosley was most impressed with his team’s ability to be the opposite of that.

“We never panicked,” said the coach. “Even though it got to be a close game, we settled down, we got the ball moving a little bit more and then our defense kicked in in the fourth quarter.”

The defensive performance in the final frame cracked open the game and led SCCS to a 67-48 win over the Cavers in the third round of the CIF Division 5 state tournament on Wednesday at The Master’s University.

The Cards surged with a 7-0 scoring run to open up the game, which developed into a 25-13 lead by halftime.

MORE: SCCS boys basketball grinds out state tourney win over South East

San Diego (24-8) came out of the locker room a revamped team.

A left-handed Thomas Marcus, who is committed to play football at the University of Arizona, finessed his way to 11 points in the third quarter.

“He’s a really explosive player,” said Justin Collins. “That left hand is hard to guard. It was a really good experience.”

In addition to guarding Marcus, Collins shut down San Diego’s scoring run with a deep 3-pointer at the 4:40 mark.

“Just stay focused,” said Collins of what he told himself when he made the shot. “We know we’re going to get open shots. They were in a 1-3-1. We knew that was our money so we knew we would have open shots.”

Collins, a senior, finished the game with 14 points, three assists and three steals.

Santa Clarita Christian’s Justin Collins (23) shoots San Diego defenders during the CIF Division 5 state tournament held at The Master’s University in Santa Clarita on Tuesday. Dan Watson/ For The Signal

The Cavers’ Daniel Thomas also caused problems for SCCS (24-9) as he repeatedly drove to the paint to set up shooters for baskets.

“We knew physicality-wise, he was a problem,” Mosley said. “But we just wanted to do a good job of making those guys work, go over our size. It felt like we had a little more size than them. We wanted to be long and be in the gaps defensively.”

Kaleb Lowery finished with a double-double for the Cardinals with 14 points and 21 rebounds. Jordan Starr had 16 points, six assists and five rebounds.

SCCS now continues to the regional finals, in which they’ll take on Van Nuys, the CIF-Los Angeles City Section Division 2 runner-ups.

Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. at TMU. The game marks the third consecutive home game for the Cardinals in the state tournament.

“I think these games would be tougher if we had to go on the road,” said Mosley. “We did earn it, getting the No. 1 seed and playing well.

“I think God has been good to our team in terms of we’re pretty healthy and we’ve been able to play in this great environment.”

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