Santa Clarita Christian boys basketball continued to set a standard amongst the program of deep playoff runs after a 60-44 win against Fairmont Prep Tuesday night at The Master’s University.
“Whenever you play a quarterfinal game, you’ve got to be ready,” SCCS head coach James Mosley said. “I’m definitely happy with the effort our guys played with. We did a good job defending and holding them down. Not letting their best player get going.”
The Cardinals came out the gate with a strong defensive showing in the quarterfinal round of the CIF-Southern Section Ford Boys Basketball Division 2AA Championships. They dominated on the board and held Fairmont to just five points in the first quarter.
The Cardinals also brought the heat on offense, which was ignited when senior Caden Starr dished a pass to senior Kaleb Lowery who hammered it into the basket.
Starr played the role of “Mr. Versatile,” recording a stat in every category except for steals. He ended Tuesday’s contest with 14 points, four rebounds, two assists and a block.
“I was just trying to be extra aggressive,” Starr said. “We started off really well and ended really well. When we moved the ball, we couldn’t be stopped. It’s encouraging to see that.”
While Starr played a well-rounded role, Lowery was the backbone of the SCCS defense. He was destructive in the paint both as a defender and a scorer. He led his team in rebounds with seven. He also scored 13 points, three assists and two steals.
“The main objective was to fight hard, get boards, box out, do our best,” Lowery said. “They have bigs and they were definitely strong and aggressive. Those big guys are definitely going to fight hard in the paint.
The pace of the game slowed to glacial speeds in the second quarter. Both teams struggled to knock down their shots with only 10 points scored in a span of four and a half minutes.
“I think the ball stopped moving,” Mosley said. “It’s really that simple. We’re trying to be intentional when going in the paint, but you also have to understand when you have those open looks you just have to step up and knock them down.”
The Cardinals maintained their 10-point lead from the first quarter as both teams went into the locker rooms at the end of the half.
The third quarter saw another scoring lull. A majority of the game was played against the glass as rebounds outnumbered points 18-16. The Cardinals grabbed 12 of those boards.
“It’s always good to have more rebounds than the other team,” Lowery said. “It’s good to box out and get them moving.”
Another dominant quarter on the glass allowed the Cardinals to hold the Huskies to another five-point quarter.
SCCS changed the pace as the game entered the fourth quarter. Junior Josh O’Garro contributed to the Cardinals’ ability to get things together on re-establishing ball movement and chemistry as a team.
“We were up in the beginning because of ball movement, for sure,” O’Garro said. “It slowed down a little. We had to come together as a team and stay strong. You know, share the ball more.”
A bulk of the excitement came in the fourth quarter. A total of 40 points were scored, which is exciting enough in itself. However, O’Garro and senior Ty Harper decided to take it up a notch and had a dunk contest of their own after the conclusion of NBA All-Star weekend on Sunday.
O’Garro kicked off the fun at the start of the fourth quarter. Senior Kyjuan Cannady threw a pass up high near the hoop and O’Garro elevated to slam down the dunk over a Fairmont defender.
“We wanted (the crowd) to have fun,” O’Garro said. “Everyone came out and paid money. We didn’t want them to waste their money.”
Harper responded with his own dunk about two minutes later. O’Garro flipped the court with a deep pass to Harper who took the opportunity at the open basket to show off his athleticism. He rose to the basket and dunked the ball behind his back.
“They’re just drills,” Harper said. “We do what we do. We wanted to put on a show for the crowd.
Both feats primed the SCCS crowd for what’s come as the Cardinals continue in the race towards a Division 2AA Championship.
Not only did Harper have a chance to show off his athleticism, he also led the Cardinals as the refused to give up control of the game throughout the 32-minute affair. He tallied 16 points, four rebounds and two assists.
“I just take what the defense is giving,” Harper said. “They weren’t very active with their hands guarding. I just used my speed and being smarter.”
O’Garro played a quieter role, but one just as important. His four points, five rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal may not have left large impacts on his team’s numbers, but his presence was felt on the court as a field general.
“Anything for my team,” O’Garro said. “Anything to win. We want to get to State. I want to get that dream come true and get that State ring.”
The Cardinals will take on the winner between Chaminade and Capo Valley Christian in the semifinal round. The game will be at 7 p.m. on Friday. The location has yet to be determined.
“Keep an eye out, we’re about to blow people’s minds,” O’Garro said.