East County Sports

Knights’ state ranking no fluke, win at No. 5 Centennial




By James McHugh

© East County Sports.com


CORONA (12-2-15) — Foothills Christian has a lot of people taking note after the Knights downed the state’s No. 5 ranked Corona Centennial Huskies 69-61 on the Huskies home floor Wednesday night (Dec. 2) in the second round of the Battle Zone.


The Knights raced out to a 24-16 first quarter lead. OMAJAE SMITH landed three triples in the frame and finished with 18-points on the night. T.J. LEAF who led all scorers on the evening with 30 points, racked up 19 of those before the break as Foothills Christian built a 39-31 lead heading into half time.


Late in the third quarter a bucket and foul for Centennial’s Paris Lubin knotted things at 48-48, the first tied score of the evening. Moments later UCLA commit and Team USA star Jalen Hill completed another old fashion three-point play to give the Huskies a 51-50 lead against the Knights heading into the fourth quarter.


Midway through the fourth, Long Beach State bound Jordan Griffin landed a three-pointer which was followed by a runner from Isom Butler to give Centennial their largest lead of the game at 60-53 with 4:15 to play.


A NIKKO PARANADA three-pointer from the top of the key brought Foothills Christian back to within striking distance, down 60-56 with just 3:18 remaining. Moments later another UCLA bound Huskie Ike Anigbogu fouled fellow future Bruin Leaf, eliminating Anigbogu from the contest with 2:48 to play and allowing Foothills Christian to inch closer at 63-61.


With 1:30 to play Smith showed up huge for the Knights once again tipping an errant Centennial pass to Paranada who dished to Leaf for a ferocious two hand dunk which garnered a reaction from many in attendance, including those rooting for the Huskies. The slam and foul gave Foothills Christian a 63-61 lead. Leaf wasn’t finished as an additional Huskies turnover led to more highlight reel material for Leaf and a 67-61 Knights lead with 28.8 seconds to play.


“Nikko played a good floor game tonight, he didn’t get rattled by their press. But our press got to them at the end,” remarked assistant coach TROY LEAF. Late free throws from LUIS SALGADO sealed the deal as Foothills closed out the night with a 69-61 win, the biggest in the program’s history and the highest state ranked team to be defeated by a San Diego Section team in years.


Foothills Christian gets a well deserved day of rest before taking on Rancho Christian of Temecula at 5:15 in the final “Battle Zone” Tournament pool play game on Friday (Dec. 4) at Corona Centennial. Rancho Christian 6-8 guard Isaiah Mobley is one of the state’s top rated freshman stars. A win over Rancho Christian would likely catapult Foothills Christian into a tournament championship meeting with the state’s No. 1 team Chino Hills on Saturday (Dec. 5).


Foothills Christian:  TJ Leaf 30 (13 reb, 6 ast, 2 blk, 1 stl), Omajae Smith 18 (4 reb, 4 ast, 2 stl), Nikko Paranada  7 (2 ast, 2 stl), Jordan Van Ommering 6 (1 reb), Luis Salgado 5 (5 reb, 4 ast, 2 stl), Jordan Starr 2 (4 reb, 2 ast, 1 blk), Kale Baldado 1 (1 stl).

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