SANTA ANA — It wasn’t the ending they were hoping for.
The Santa Clarita Christian School boys basketball team fell to Rolling Hills Preparatory School 56-49 in the CIF-Southern Section Division 3AA championship game on Saturday.
However, just getting to the final round was an enormous accomplishment for a team that dealt with several roadblocks throughout the season that most other teams will never have to deal with.
The series of obstacles began with a procedural error involving the paperwork of a transfer player, forcing SCCS to forfeit the majority of its victories. A dozen wins were vacated, dropping the Cardinals to 6-21 on the season.
Despite the forfeited games, SCCS was still able to qualify for the playoffs, and realized amongst themselves that something remarkable was brewing.
“I’m extremely proud of these guys. They’ve worked hard all year long and have been so committed to our school,” SCCS head coach James Mosley said. “They dealt with something that was not their fault at all and I think they grew as young men as a result of it. When we found out we were able to go to the playoffs, we knew we could do something special and make a run.
“My prayer for these guys was just that they would be blessed for their hard work and the adversity they went through.”
“We’ve been through a lot this year and just goes to show how God is real and how He has helped us out this season,” senior guard Justin Collins said. “Despite the fallback with our record, we know that we won those games and we worked hard for it each day.”
The next challenge involved the mid-season transfer of sophomore starting guard Noah Veluzat. The versatile playmaker had been an integral part of the team, but just like that, he was gone.
Then came Kaleb Lowery’s fractured ankle. The lengthy, defensive stalwart missed more than a month of action, making that two starters no longer in the lineup.
Lowery returned to the court in the playoffs, albeit slowly. The big man’s minutes were restricted and he had to come off the bench throughout the postseason.
“With all the adversity we’ve been through just to make it here, God really blessed us,” said senior Kevin Stone. “It’s a testament to how much work we put in. Everyone down to the last guy on the bench has put in the work for our team. So just to make it here is a blessing.”
After the loss in the title game, the disappointment was clear on the faces of Mosley, Collins and Stone, as they sat in the media room and reflected.
However, the trio was reminded of the fact that the team made an improbable journey to the finals, and the players cherished every minute they played together on the hardwood.
“Coach brings us together and God reminds us we’re all a family. We’re always supporting each other,” Collins said.
“The fact that they play for each other, that’s why this hurts so much, because we have been together,” Mosley said. “Just seeing this group play together and enjoy it, that’s the thing I’m reflecting on and thinking about.”
In a season filled with highs and lows, it may have not been the ending they were hoping for, but the Cardinals can be proud of the fact that they defied the odds by making it to a second straight championship game and persevered through the adversity.