East County Sports

Knights end 40-game win streak of nation’s No. 16 team

Foothills Christian's T.J. Leaf dunks against Sacred Heart Saturday.



By James McHugh

© East County Sports.com

SPRINGFIELD, MASS. (1-17-16) – Freshman guard JAREN NAFARRETE made a name for himself Saturday night (Jan. 16) at the Spalding HoopHall Classic in Springfield Massachusetts. While his teammates were busy tying a school record with 15-three pointers and senior forward T.J. LEAF was turning in a triple double of 30-points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, Nafarrete stepped to the line with four seconds remaining in a tied ball game and calmly sank both attempts.

The free throws helped Foothills Christian complete an 82-80 victory over the nation’s No. 16 team, Sacred Heart of Waterbury Connecticut.


The Hearts entered the contest winners of their previous 40 games, two consecutive Connecticut state titles and a USA Today top 25 ranking.


Foothills controlled the game for the first 24-minutes, leading by 19 heading into the fourth quarter. T.J. Leaf knocked down another 30-points and added 10 assists for the Knights as well. Leaf had help from the outside as senior LUIS SALGADO connected on his first four attempts from beyond the arc and 6-7 on the night, finishing with 20 points total. Salgado now has the most three point connections on record in the San Diego section’s history with 287 for his career.


JORDAN VANOMMERING drained all four of his three point attempts for the Knights and OMAJAE SMITH contributed two as well on his way to 10-points.


The final quarter became the story of the night for Foothills for all the wrong reasons. Senior guard NIKKO PARANADA went down with an ankle injury with 7:52 to play in the fourth. At that point the Knights still possessed a 69-52 lead. With Paranada out the Knights still led 77-66 with 3:14 to play.

Sacred Heart kept clogging at the comeback though and continued to get big buckets from Auburn commit Mustapha Heron and UMASS commit Tyrn Flowers. Flowers connected on three long shots from outside in the quarter, each bigger than the last.


JORDAN STARR went to the line with the Knights leading 79-74 and under one minute to play, the front end of his one and one missed and Heron hit his longest three of the night. After Omajae Smith hit one of two free throws Heron connected again to tie the game at 80-80 with eight seconds to play.


That’s when Heron went from hero to head scratcher in one play. On the inbound pass, Heron fouled Nafarrete almost immediately and what seemed purposefully. Most watching assumed Heron perhaps didn’t realize that the Hearts were already over their foul limit and the foul would send the Knights to the line.


As Nafarrete stepped to the line the full gymnasium rose, most in an attempt to rattle the freshman guard as Sacred Heart was able to bring full fan buses and several local rivals attended to cheer them on. Nafarrete sunk the first and a myriad of onlooker could be seen with their hands on their heads, in disbelief that the Hearts 40-game win streak was perhaps about to end. Nafarrete sunk the second.


A half court heave from Heron missed left and Nafarrete, who ran the point for the Knights for the final eight minutes, committing no turnovers in a quarter riddled with Foothills miscues, had placed his name at center stage.


“Nikko was phenomenal  again until he got hurt,” assistant coach TROY LEAF said after the big win on a national stage. “T.J. put on a passing clinic and guys stepped up and made big shots. We beat a team that had won 40-games in a row, a top 20 team nationally in a hostile environment and we had to have multiple guys step up at different times,” Leaf continued.


Of Nafarette’s finish Leaf was pleased with the freshman’s poise, “Those were the biggest pressure free throws in the loudest high school game I can remember, that was big time.”


FOOTHILLS CHRISTIAN: T.J. Leaf 30 (11 reb, 10 ast, 4 blk, 2 stl), Luis Salgado 21 (2 reb, 1 ast, 2 blk,), Omajae Smith 12 (3 reb, 2 ast, 1 blk, 1 stl), Jordan Van Ommering 12 (3 reb), Jaren Nafarrete 4 (1 reb, 1 stl), Nikko Paranada 3 (9 ast, 1 reb, 1 stl), Jordan Starr (3 reb, 1 stl), Kale Baldado (1 reb, 1 blk).

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