Three years ago, Santa Clarita Christian boys basketball came to the BattleZONE tournament and won a single game. On Friday night, they won a semifinals game against perennial Open Division contender Racho Christian, 90-79, at Centennial High School.
“We were happy to win that one game,” SCCS coach James Mosley recalled from three years ago. “Our seniors were familiar with this tournament and they wanted to be here and they wanted the challenge.”
The Cardinals have come a long way, even from just Wednesday when they had to fight back from a 16-point deficit to beat Foothill Christian in overtime in the Adidas BattleZONE tournament.
On Friday, SCCS led the Eagles by just five points at halftime, 50-45. Mosley said his team’s defense improved in the second half, which helped the Cards get the win.
“I feel like we had a lot of adversity in our last game,” Mosley said. “We stayed together and didn’t give up and I think when you do that, things start flowing a lot better. That was a byproduct of us pulling a game out on Wednesday.”
Offensively, the Cardinals made smart decisions when it came to passing and shooting and developed a rhythm early on in the game.
Caden Starr paced the team in scoring with 22 points to go with seven rebounds and 10 assists. Ty Harper had 18 points and four assists, Tiago Soares had 15 points, four rebounds and five assists and Kaleb Lowery finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Josh O’Garro paced the team in scoring with 22 points and four rebounds and, according to Mosley, had one of his best games ever on defense.
“He made big 3-pointers, he finished in transition, defense in the gaps was excellent,” Mosley said. “He put together one of his best defensive games. He stepped up and made so many open looks. He’s super athletic and it was really a perfect game for him.”
Rancho Christian’s best player offensively was Evan Mobley, a five-star recruit and USC commit, who had 21 points in the game.
Although the Cardinals double-teamed him throughout the night, 6-foot-8 Lowery guarded him early in the game and 6-foot-4 Soares took over later on.
“Our guys did an OK job of double-teaming him and making it hard on him,” Mosley said. “We did a great job defensively on the movement on the ball. I thought that was the big difference.”
SCCS is scheduled to play Sheldon in the BattleZONE finals tonight at 6:30 p.m. Last season, Sheldon made it to the Open Division finals of the CIF State championships but fell to Sierra Canyon, 76-52.
“It’s going to be important for us to match the physicality and stay together,” Mosley said, “and defensively, compete hard. My main focus is we continue to play together and match the physicality.”