Santa Clarita Christian boys basketball’s Justin Collins has seen his team change before his eyes.
His freshman and sophomore year, the Cardinals were a humble basketball team that drew ample support from the school and student body and made the occasional playoff run.
Now, as a junior, Collins has seen the arrival of talented transfers, a boom in school support and unprecedented postseason success that has led to an appearance in the CIF Division 5 state championship game, which is set for Saturday at noon.
“It’s really changed,” Collins said. “Not just basketball, but every sport and activity has changed locally and more kids to come to the school.
“There’s some excitement going on since we’re going to state for the first time, so that’s bumped up everyone to try harder in every sport and achieve their goals.”
After playing its previous four games within the friendly confines of The Master’s University, SCCS (24-9) will play Argonaut of Jackson at the Golden 1 Center, the home venue of the Sacramento Kings.
In order to prepare for arena play, the Cards will spend some time practicing at William Jessup University’s gym in Rocklin.
“It’s a wider court, it’s an NBA court,” said Collins. “There’s definitely going to be that spacing and we just have to be ready defensively and lock in.”
The Cardinals will be facing a team that measures up to themselves – height-wise, at least.
Seven players on the Argonaut roster are at least six feet tall, providing a good challenge for SCCS, which has relied on its size throughout the season to win games.
“We’re going to work to get the ball inside, but we’ve got to be really good defensively,” said coach James Mosley.
The Mustangs (29-5) are offensively led by 6-foot-1 Adison Cramer, who averages 19 points per game and 4.4 assists per game.
“He’s just a really good shooter,” Mosley said. “They put a lot of pressure on the defense and you’ve got to do a good job of knowing where they’re at. Our goal will be really to do a good job of knowing where he’s at and stopping penetration.”
In terms of scoring for SCCS, point guard Jordan Starr paces the team with 12.3 ppg, followed by freshman Noah Veluzat at 10.5 ppg.
Ty Penberthy will be returning for the Cards after missing a week and a half with a sprained ankle suffered against South East in the second round of the state tournament.
“A little soreness, but he’s making progress,” Mosley said. “I think we’re going to need our full assortment of our guys because it’s going to take a great defensive effort.”
The assortment of players and the appearance of SCCS basketball may have changed, but the humble attitude of a small Christian school remains the same.
“Probably just go out for dinner or something or we’ll bring it back to school the next week and celebrate in chapel,” Collins said of what the team would do if it won.
“…We just want to bring it back home so we can celebrate.”