NORTHRIDGE — Scheduling games against some of the nation’s top recruits and teams has become a regularity for the Santa Clarita Christian School boys basketball team.
Playing Rancho Christian and the nation’s top recruits in Evan Mobley in the semifinals before facing Sheldon High School and Marcus Bagley in the title game at the BattleZONE Tournament last week showed they could hang with the best.
On Wednesday, the Cardinals’ non-league schedule didn’t get any easier as they took on Sierra Canyon at the California State University, Northridge on Wednesday. The Trailblazers were ranked eighth in the nation in the latest USA Today boys basketball expert rankings.
In front of a packed house, the Cardinals left it all out on the floor even without their full squad and only trailed by one point heading into halftime against the Trailblazers, but at the turn, the home team pulled away for a 72-54 win.
“I thought we competed,” said SCCS head coach James Mosley. “We knew we were a little short-handed, not having Tiago (Soares) did hurt, he’s just another athletic body that can shoot, but I thought they competed. We were worried that they might make some adjustments and were out of rhythm early, but when we got into foul trouble, they really took advantage of pressing and being more aggressive.”
The Cardinals (4-2 overall) began the contest with great fight as Josh O’Garro made the first two buckets by getting into the lane for easy points. Newcomer Ty Harper showcased his ability to drive and finish at the rim to extend the early SCCS lead to 11-5 with two minutes left in the first quarter.
O’Garro scored 12 points and had five steals.
Defensively, Kaleb Lowery anchored the low post contesting every drive and shot inside the lane to force awkward shots by the Trailblazers.
Lowery finished the game with a double-double scoring 10 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
Halfway through the second quarter, an Amari Bailey dunk tied the game at 20-20, but Harper answered with back-to-back 3’s on the Cardinals’ following possessions to put SCCS back in front.
“He’s such a competitor so that’s his biggest thing,” Mosley said of Harper. “We are getting better of finding ways to use him within the framework of what we do. He’s such a weapon because he can spread the floor and that threat of his athleticism and burst is what was keeping them out of the aggressive trapping.”
Harper finished the contest with a game-high 28 points (four 3’s) to go along with six rebounds.
Just before the half off of a BJ Boston miss, Sierra Canyon’s 7-foot-3 center Harold Yu tipped in a shot to take a one-point lead into the half, up 30-29.
Going back and forth to begin the second half, the Trailblazers (6-0) blew the game wide open halfway through the quarter turning steals and bad shots into breakaways and extended the lead to double digits. With under two minutes left, the Sierra Canyon lead grew to 54-38.
Down 20 to begin the fourth quarter, SCCS just couldn’t make enough plays to wither away Sierra Canyon and fell for the second time this season.
“Ultimately, I’m proud of how the guys competed. I just think we were just a little thin and foul trouble hurt us and they are a good team, they make adjustments,” Mosley said. “We tend to play a little more man-to-man than we did today, but I thought we were hampered with foul trouble and the lack of depth, but I thought we competed.”
The Cardinals play Lynwood at 5:30 p.m. at Sierra Canyon on Friday.