PERRIS – In the days leading up to the CIF-Southern Section Division 3AA second-round game against Citrus Hill, Santa Clarita Christian School boys basketball focused on three things: boxing out, rebounding and getting up and down the court.
Effectively taking care of all three tasks on Tuesday, the Cardinals delivered a 73-48 win over Citrus Hill to move on to the quarterfinals.
“I just thought we did a good job of making their key guys work for what they got,” said SCCS head coach James Mosley. “We wanted to really keep the tempo up because we thought we were in a little better condition so we wanted to have a rhythmic game and force them to make plays.
I thought we did a good job of defending and sharing the ball. We have multiple weapons and when the ball moves we have energy and I feel that we are as good as anyone when that happens.”
Kevin Stone hit a corner 3 to begin the game and a Josh O’Garro steal and two-handed breakaway dunk ignited the Cardinals (8-21 overall) to an 11-2 lead. A Stone steal and fastbreak layup with 3:00 minutes remaining in the first forced Citrus Hill to call a timeout.
Stone finished the game with 14 points, two rebounds and an assist.
Showing their unselfishness with under two minutes to go in the first quarter, Justin Collins found Leroy Thompson for 3 at the top of the key and on the next possession, Thompson returned the favor by assisting Collins on a 3 of his own.
Collins recorded nine points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Crashing the boards and contesting every shot, SCCS held Citrus Hill (19-10) to seven points and held a 21-7 lead after one quarter of play.
Opening the scoring with corner 3, O’Garro went off in the second quarter, scoring 15 of his game-high 26 points along with multiple breakaway dunks in the frame to help SCCS extend the lead to double-digits.
“First and foremost, I want to thank Jesus Christ, but I didn’t want to lose and I wanted to come out gunning,” O’Garro said. “It means a lot because we have been working hard at practice. Plus everyone at school is counting on us and we want to make everyone and the Lord proud.”
At the half SCCS led 41-18.
Never trailing in the game, SCCS began the third quarter on fire with buckets by O’Garro and Caden Starr, and two free throws by Leroy Thompson to go on a 9-2 run with under five minutes left in the quarter.
“We have to keep building on it because games are only going to get harder from here on out,” Starr said. “It’s nice to see us lock them down and playing good defense and our offense is running pretty smoothly, as well.”
Thompson ended the game with 13 points, six rebounds and two assists. Starr filled the stat sheet by finishing with eight points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals.
With the game in hand and up by 29 to begin the in the fourth quarter, Citrus Hill was able to close the deficit by hitting some uncontested shots and driving into the lane, but ultimately fell.
The Cardinals advance to the quarterfinals where they will play Warren at The Master’s University at 7 p.m. on Thursday.
“We have a wonderful opportunity here,” Mosley said. “There are eight teams left playing and we feel that we can beat anyone in our division on any day, but we have to understand that wins don’t just happen. We have to be mentally focused and I think we are locked in and will continue doing the little things to win games.”