East County Sports

Upset not in Starr’s for Foothills Christian against Chino

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T.J. Leaf dunks Saturday against Chino Hills.



By James McHugh
© East County Sports.com

CHATSWORTH (1-10-16) – Foothills Christian came within a short seven foot jumper of knocking off the No. 1 team in America Saturday night (Jan. 9) at the Sierra Canyon Super Showcase. JORDAN STARR’s short jump hook fell just short as did the Knights, losing a heartbreaker 85-83 to USA Today and MaxPreps No. 1 Chino Hills.


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Leaf and Lonzo Ball prior to Saturday’s contest.

UCLA Coach Steve Alford was on hand to watch no less than three future Bruins, including all three Ball brothers from Chino Hills (Lonzo, LiAngelo and LaMelo) as well as Foothills Christian’s T.J. LEAF. Leaf did his part in putting the Knights in position to compete with the Huskies. Leaf connected on 20-24 shots from the floor and grabbed 21 rebounds for the Knights. Quite a performance from the senior facing Chino Hills and Lonzo Ball, who is currently in National Player of the Year discussion.


Foothills outscored the Huskies 24-17 in the first quarter due in large part to the play of Leaf and senior NIKKO PARANADA. Paranada dished out 11 assists on the evening to go along with nine points. Leaf dropped 14 of his game high 43-points in the opening quarter.


Assistant coach TROY LEAF sang the praises of his seniors after the game, “Nikko (Paranada) I don’t think had a turnover in 32-minutes against their press. He was phenomenal as a senior point guard. T.J. (Leaf) was head and shoulders the best player on the floor in a game that featured some pretty high level talent. I don’t ever remember seeing such a dominant performance in a high school basketball game before. He was an absolute load from all over the floor.”


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Leaf with one of his several dunks in the game on Saturday against No. 1 Chino Hills.

In the second the Knights turned the ball over too often, letting the ball slip back to the Huskies on seven occasions. However, Chino Hills led by just five at the break.


In the third the Knights fell behind by eight before a 6-0 run led Foothills to within striking distance once again. A layup by Lonzo Ball and then a long three from freshman LaMelo Ball just before the close of the third gave the Huskies a seven-point cushion once again though.


As the game wound down the drama unfolded on both sides of the court. A timeout wiped out an emphatic dunk from Leaf on a beautiful pass from Paranada. Chino Hills was allowed a timeout with seconds to play as it appeared Jordan Starr had already inbounded the ball to Paranada. However, players from both teams showed their poise.


With under a minute to play LUIS SALGADO came through from long range in a huge moment once again for the Knights, bringing Foothills to within a point at 82-81. Foothills then got an MVP play from Leaf who brought the crowd to its feet with a bucket that put Foothills Christian ahead 83-82 with seconds to play.


Foothills Christian shot itself in the foot however, fouling Lonzo Ball on the ensuing inbound 80-feet from the basket. Ball converted both free throws giving Chino Hills a one point lead with 7.7 to play. The Knights rushed to get the ball up court and get a decent look from Starr with about two seconds to play but his short jump hook fell just short and Lonzo Ball grabbed the rebound while being fouled. Ball hit one of two free throws to give Chino Hills the 85-83 victory.


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Luis Salgado scores for Foothills Christian against Chino Hills on Saturday afternoon.

On the final play going to Starr, assistant coach Troy Leaf asserted that it was the right shot. “If you said Jordan Starr gets a short runner to win at the buzzer against the number one team in the nation I take that ten times out of ten. It’s the best shot in his game and a shot we all believe he can make. They had three guys go to T.J. (Leaf) and he made the right play, unfortunately we just didn’t get the right bounce.”


Foothills Christian returns to Coastal League action next week against Santa Fe Christian Tuesday night (Jan. 12) at Cuyamaca College at 6 p.m. From there the Knights will fly to Springfield Massachusetts for the HoopHall Classic where they will face Sacred Heart of Waterbury CT, currently ranked No. 17 in the Nation.


Foothills Christian:  T.J. LEAF 43 (21 reb, 4 ast, 3 blk, 2 stl), Luis Salgado 10 (2 reb, 1 stl), Jordan Van Ommering 9 (3 reb, 1 ast, 1 stl), Nikko Paranada 9 (11 ast, 4 reb, 1 blk, 1 stl), Omajae Smith 8 (2 reb, 1 ast, 1 blk, 1 stl), Jordan Starr 4 (5 reb, 2 ast, 1 blk, 1

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