SCCS to square up with St. Francis in CIF-SS final

Santa Clarita Christian's Tiago Soares (24) drives through Marantha defenders Isiah Johnson (1) Xavier Thompson (3) to score at The Master's University on Wednesday. Dan Watson/The Signal

It will be a family affair when the Santa Clarita Christian School boys basketball team and head coach James Mosley face off against St. Francis and Golden Knights freshman Jackson Mosley, James’s nephew, in the CIF-Southern Section Division 2AA finals at Azusa-Pacific University on Saturday.

But family ties will be pushed to the side when competition begins.

“For us, we have to be good defensively,” James said. “We have to keep the ball in front of us and do a good job of contesting their shooters.”

The Cardinals have a steep road ahead of them trying to shut down UC Irvine-bound guard Andre Henry, who has been the heartbeat of the Golden Knights since the beginning of the season. But after SCCS’s overtime win against KJ Simpson and fellow Mission League team Chaminade on Friday, the Cardinals have some idea on how to defend the senior.

“The scary thing about Andre Henry, looking at film, is that he always seems to make the right play,” James said. “He’s super unselfish, he’s very good so he puts a lot of pressure on the defense in the post, KJ didn’t post as much. Andre will ‘iso’ you, spin and is very crafty, more methodically skilled and then his ability to post up.

“What is really scary is the amount of shooters that they have, so we are going to do our job with our length and size and try to slow him down and not get him to his sweet spot.”

St. Francis’ Jason Gallant and Jackson Mosley came up huge by scoring 15 and nine points in the Golden Knights’ upset win against the No. 2 seed, Heritage Christian, in the quarterfinals. The two will also be key in the defensive gameplan. 

“A big part of our game plan is matching their energy and toughness because I’m telling you, they do a great job of playing hard and playing the right way,” James said. “Both of those guys do a great job of being efficient players that are tough and make plays.”

Santa Clarita Christian’s Kaleb Lowery (33) dribbles the ball down the court against Marantha at The Master’s University on Wednesday. Dan Watson/The Signal

The Cardinals are no pushovers either, with a roster that features two senior veterans in 6-foot-8 big man Kaleb Lowery and 6-foot-7 utility player Caden Starr, along with spark plugs Ty Harper, Josh O’Garro and Tiago Soares. 

Kyjuan Cannady might be the most important piece of the puzzle to a Cardinals’ title as the team has gone undefeated ever since his first game of the season, which was an 89-61 victory over Village Christian on Jan. 17. Cannady recorded a double-double with 12 points, 10 assists, six rebounds and two steals.

“He’s one of those guys who has a high character on and off the floor,” James said. “He’s one of our best charge-takers, he has a great feel, he’s super unselfish, long and active defensively.”

Defensively, St. Francis might not possess the length and size that other Mission League teams possess, like Harvard-Westlake, but have defensive habits that James says are “second-to-none.” 

MORE: SCCS boys hoops Ty Harper makes his presence felt in first season with team

The Knights do a good job of getting in between the gaps, on-ball defense and take charges very well. James and the Cardinals will try to counterattack the tough St. Francis defense by playing to their strengths, their size and ball movement.

“I feel like if the ball is moving, we do have a lot of weapons and that gives us the best chance of winning,” James said. “I feel like our guys with size – Kaleb Lowery and Caden – they have to show up and kind of be aggressive and create a problem for them. I think it will make everyone’s job a little easier if those guys take the lead.”

Tipoff is scheduled for noon on Saturday at Azusa Pacific University.

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