Heading out on the road in their first game of the 2019 Division II CIF State Boys Basketball Championships, the No. 9-seeded Santa Clarita Christian School boys basketball team traveled south to take on the No. 8 seed Poway on Tuesday.
Trailing after one quarter of play, SCCS made some defensive adjustments to win 59-53 and advance into the second round of the Division II championships.
“They were a really good team. Very physical game, they had size,” said SCCS head coach James Mosley. “We came out and had to deal with some adversity when they jumped out to four or five early. Then we had a great second quarter offensively.”
Kevin Stone and Leroy Thompson both started knocking down shots as Caden Starr did a good job of getting to the high post to create opportunities for himself as well as his teammates.
Stone finished the game with 18 points and Thompson had 15. As usual, Starr did a little bit of everything, scoring five points in the victory.
“Kevin was huge,” Mosley said. “Just with his shot-making ability and he did a really good job defensively being long on the wing. He has just been really tremendous. He’s been great. Leroy got hot in the second quarter and I think that shot making softened up their zone defense because they had to extend out. Then we were able to make plays inside in the fourth quarter.”
Down 17-14 after one quarter of play, the Cardinals (11-22 overall) switched to a match-up zone defense in order to disrupt Poway with their size and length.
“Having Kaleb Lowery, Caden and Josh on the court who are all over 6-foot-4, it really bothered them,” Mosley said. “We just tried to make them finish over our size and they had a hard time and we were able to go on a run. We built the lead and then when we got to the fourth we went back to man-to-man because they hit a couple of 3’s, but that was what really changed the game for us.”
Down the stretch, Poway (22-8) was able to make the game interesting down eight points with 1:08 left, but SCCS was able to withstand the late-game push to pull out the road win.
“I thought we did a much better job of really moving the ball and showing what we do and I think it showed early,” Mosley said. “The game kind of slowed down in the second half, but in the second quarter is where we won the game in terms of going on a run. When we move the ball and play with force, we are really tough to guard because we start making shots and we really are an elite offensive team. I’m just proud of this group. To go on the road and win a game like this at a high-level Division II state game it just says a lot about the kids and their character that they have shown this year.”
With the win, SCCS advances to the second round where they will be on the road again, this time facing off against top seed Rancho Cucamonga at Rancho Cucamonga at 7 p.m. on Thursday.
“We have to do a great job of taking care of the ball,” Mosley said. “They have a lot of team speed and they do a good job of defending and flying around. We feel like we have some different advantages in terms of having size on the floor, but we just have to be really good. Our energy has to be off the top.
We have to play a great game to go on the road and play a team like that. It would be a great program win for us being in the Division II state and being able to go there and win. We are excited for the opportunity, but we really have to be physical and execution-wise be at the top of our game in order to beat a team like that on the road.”