Before the Santa Clarita Christian School boys basketball team tipped off its season, the expectation was the team would at the very least make it to the CIF-Southern Section Division 5AAA final.
That’s what happens when you inherit six quality transfers that make immediate impacts in your rotation.
“In some sense it’s even more challenging when everybody expects you to do it,” said Cardinals coach James Mosley. “We’ve always tried to say, ‘Take it one day at a time and try to be the best you can be that day.’”
SCCS will look to again be at its best again Saturday as it’ll take on La Puente in the Division 5AAA final at 2 p.m. at Colony High in Ontario.
The bar has been set high this year, with the additions of brothers Jordan and Caden Starr (Village Christian transfers), Kaleb and T.J. Lowery (Foothills Christian [San Diego] transfers), Ty Penberthy (Village Christian transfer), Noah Veluzat and Kevin Stone (Canyon transfer). But the Cardinals haven’t had much trouble exceeding that bar to this point.
After receiving a bye in the first round of the Division 5AAA tournament as the No. 2 seed, they’ve won their three playoff games by an average of 41.3 points. The Cardinals endured a rough tournament slate, which included trips to the BattleZone in Corona and the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic in San Diego, but have won 14 in a row since losing to Windward on Jan. 15.
“Those tournaments taught us how hard we were going to have to compete and that winning wasn’t just going to happen,” Mosley said. “I think we’re reaping some of the benefits of having a harder schedule and having to work daily and not get things so easy.”
With the likes of Jordan Starr (6-foot-7), Kaleb Lowery (6-foot-7) and Caden Starr (6-foot-6), the Cardinals (19-9) will have a clear height advantage Saturday.
But they’ll be pitted against a hungry La Puente squad that’s playing in its first-ever boys basketball Southern Section final in school history. The Warriors (18-11) are also coming off a 76-74 buzzer-beater win in overtime against Santa Maria.
Michael Solis hit that buzzer beater and had 13 points while the Warriors were led by Ralphie Macias, who had 28 points.
“They don’t have a ton of size but they have some quickness and the way they’ve advanced is that they’re a really good shooting team that works together well,” Mosley said. “We’ll obviously really go after them with our size and our length and really disrupt what they do.”
Unlike La Puente, this will be SCCS’ second trip to a Southern Section final. They made it to the title game in 2014 but lost to View Park, opening the door for this year’s team to give the school its first Southern Section boys basketball championship.
“It’s an honor to still be playing,” Mosley said. “I feel like I’ve been blessed with all these great kids in the program and I just want to get out of their way and enjoy it.”