WEST HILLS –– The Santa Clarita Christian School boys hoops team CIF-Southern Section Division 2AA semifinals game against Chaminade at Chaminade High School on Friday exemplified what true playoff basketball means.
Leading from the tip off, the Cardinals contained the Eagles offense for the majority of the game, but Eagles players KJ Simpson and Keith Higgins Jr. slowly chipped away at the lead and forced overtime.
In the overtime period, SCCS went on a run that Chaminade could not come back from to escape with a huge 89-83 road win in OT.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy coming in here,” said SCCS head coach James Mosley. “They have elite scorers and they put a lot of pressure on the defense and so we just had to keep fighting and compete. I’m really proud of our hustle offensively, I thought we moved the ball pretty well.
“I felt like we had a couple of spurts where we held them down and then we did enough offensively to hold them off. They didn’t give up, they kept fighting and they have been great kids all night long.”
Cardinals Ty Harper led the team in scoring with 30 points, three rebounds and two assists, Josh O’Garro followed with 22 points and four rebounds and Kaleb Lowery finished with 16 points and three rebounds.
SCCS (23-5 overall) quickly used their length and quickness and held an 11-4 lead halfway through the first quarter powered by O’Garro, Harper and Caden Starr. Defensively, the Cardinals deterred Chaminade from setting up their offense properly and forced bad shots early.
The Eagles climbed back into the game with 10 points by Simpson to trail 24-20 with 5:33 left in the first half. But Starr kept the Cardinals offense afloat, slipping his way into tiny cracks in the defense to find his teammates.
With under three minutes to go, Harper had back-to-back assists to O’Garro and Kyjuan Cannady and SCCS regained the 10-point lead, up 34-24.
Chaminade (26-8), led by Simpson, rallied in the second half and got within two points, down 45-43 with 4:20 left.
Simpson finished with a game-high of 33 points.
Battling back down three at the end of the third quarter, Chaminade stayed within striking range of SCCS through the final period of regulation. After SCCS turned the ball over with under a minute left holding a 70-69 lead, Simpson hit a floater to take a one-point lead with 35.6 seconds left.
After the Eagles hit a free throw, Harper drove to the basket with 4.5 second lefts and dished it off to Lowery who tied the game at 71-71.
In the extra period, Harper led the Cardinal offense on a 10-3 run to begin and Lowery and Cannady hit free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
“We locked down and did what we needed to do,” Harper said. “When we lock down on defense, our offense comes. Staying disciplined and listening to coach.”
The Cardinals advance to their third straight CIF-SS Finals and will play St. Francis on Saturday, Feb. 29.
“We are going to keep doing what we do,” Mosley said. “One practice at a time, one day at a time and get ready for our opponent. Respect them and try to honor God with our preparation.”