Santa Clarita Christian boys’ basketball may look different from years past, but one thing remains the same: beating the crosstown, Heritage League rival Trinity Knights.
The SCCS Cardinals overcame a 13-point deficit to beat the Knights for the program’s ninth consecutive win over Trinity, besting the Knights, 68-65, on Friday at the Newhall Church of the Nazarene.
Trinity (11-5, 3-2) would take a staggering 15-2 lead early in the game as the team was fighting for its first win over the Cardinals in seven seasons. Hot shooting and trapping on defense from the Knights powered the team to the double-digit lead.
“Well, we got off to a hot start, which we’ve been working on doing all year so that was nice,” said Knights head coach Daniel Hebert. “But basketball is a game of runs. And they had the run at the end.”
SCCS (7-5, 5-3) struggled early to break through the Trinity full-court press. The Cards settled in late in the first quarter but still couldn’t jump in front of Trinity. The Cardinals tied the game in the second quarter but back-to-back 3-pointers from the Knights would elongate the comeback.
Trinity point guard Gabe Chavez bolstered the lead with some quick scoring. Chavez scored four of his 15 points in 20 seconds with a drive to the hoop, followed by a quick steal and score.
The Cardinals would keep chipping away and go into the half down 32-28.
SCCS sophomore Evan Ok caught fire out of the break, scoring 10 of his 13 points in the third quarter to give the Cards their first lead of the night.
“Once I got the ball, I just wanted to help my team,” Ok said. “I found open spots so I could shoot it. So, I was able to contribute to the team and score those points.”
Cardinals senior Rylan Starr also hit some shots behind the arc and suddenly SCCS, which trailed nearly the entire game, was up by 10. SCCS was playing much better defense and outscored the Knights 23-9 in the third quarter.
“Well at the beginning, me personally, I came out with no energy,” Starr said. “And I know a couple of the other guys on the team came out with no energy, and coach had to call the timeout. We had a break, and we just settled down. We realized we’re better than this team and we just played with more energy when we came out and I think that was it, energy.”
The Cardinals were finally hitting shots and consistently working through the Trinity press with ease. SCCS forward Will Allen was a big difference maker in the come back, scoring 15 points and reeling in eight rebounds.
“The biggest difference was definitely our defense,” said Allen. “We really stepped up our defense and we figured out their press which was also really helpful on the offensive side.”
Chavez started the fourth quarter on a mission and hit some shots early in the quarter. However, the Knights would fall just short partially due to a handful of misses from the free throw line.
SCCS had a few bad possessions and kept fouling late in the game but misses at foul line cost the Knights dearly to close out the game.
The Cardinals had three players score 13 or more points, which was no surprise to Cards head coach Thomas Lowerey.
“We can shoot the ball but defense wins games and defense wins championships,” Lowerey said. “Offense sells tickets and we sold enough tickets today.”
The Knights were led by junior Lucas Spring with 20 points, followed by senior Bram Yoo, who scored 19.
Trinity showed no quit and even though Hebert wasn’t pleased with the outcome, he was proud of his team.
“Loved it, loved it,” Hebert said. “I think that might have been the first and second time we’ve [come back] this year. We just fought and battled back. We say ‘fight’ almost every time we break out of the huddle.”
Hebert is still looking for his first career-win over the SCCS boys team while first-year Lowerey begins his tenure 1-0 against the Knights.
“I love the people here. I know a lot of people from Trinity,” Lowerey said. “It’s a wonderful rivalry but I want to beat him every time we get a chance and they feel the same way.”
Trinity will remain at home for a couple of Heritage League games. The Knights retake the floor on Tuesday for a league matchup with Faith Baptist at 7 p.m.
SCCS will also play Faith next in an away-league game on Tuesday, Jan. 10, at 6:30 p.m.
The Cardinals will host the Knights for round 2 on Saturday, Jan. 28, at 7 p.m.
“I would love to see us keep moving forward,” Lowerey said. “Even if it’s one step at a time, I’m okay with it. Like my home coach said, ‘When you step on the court, either you get better or you get worse,’ and today we got here, we got better.”