East County Sports

Knights overcome senior jitters to make night special



By James McHugh
© East County Sports.com


RANCHO SAN DIEGO (2-13-16) – Foothills Christian kept rolling through the Coastal League on senior night at Cuyamaca College. The Knights topped visiting La Jolla Country Day 81-56 Friday night (Feb. 12) in their final home game of the regular season.


Before the game the Knights honored their five outgoing seniors, T.J. LEAF, OMAJAE SMITH, LUIS SALGAGO, NIKKO PARANADA and CONNOR GEORGE.


Each of the five seniors started for the Knights, but a sloppy first quarter led to a lot of roster shuffling for head coach BRAD LEAF’s squad. Foothills Christian led the young Torreys just 13-10 after a quarter of play.


The Knights expanded their lead to 37-23 by the break. Foothills tallied points from seven different scorers in the second quarter, including four from NIKKO PARANADA who finished the night with a full stat line of 13 points on 6-9 shooting to go along with eight rebounds, seven assists, three steals and a block. The senior guard is being recruited by colleges in the Philippines which could be a direct route to the professional ranks in the island nation.


La Jolla Country Day received an excellent performance from Marcus Perry on the night, leading the Torrey’s with 12-points. Freshman big man Matt Bender pitched in 11-points for Country Day, but was plagued with early foul trouble which relegated him to the bench for much of the second and third quarters.


Foothills Christian embarked on a 12-2 run headed toward halftime which depleted the Torrey’s bid to keep things close. Raymond Lu did manage two free throws after being fouled on a long three point attempt just before the buzzer.


In the third quarter La Jolla Country Day actually cut Foothills Christian’s lead to as few as 10-points on two Ryan Langborg free throws before the Knights added another 11-0 over the last few minutes of the third quarter and opening minutes of the fourth. KALE BALDADO who is normally the sixth or seventh man for the Knights depending on matchups, had a near double-double with 10-points and seven rebounds. Baldado threw down an alley-oop dunk from Nikko Paranada as part of the Knight’s run to end the third.


LUIS SALGADO also had a big night for Foothills with 18 points, six rebounds and three assists. Salgado has emerged as an all-around player capable of driving the lane as well as hitting threes for the Knights as his senior year has developed.


UCLA bound T.J. LEAF spread 28-points and 12-rebounds over four quarters. The senior forward is on pace to finish second all-time on the CIF San Diego section scoring list behind his older brother and assistant coach TROY LEAF.  T.J. Leaf also trails Helix High alum Bill Walton by just 13 rebounds for third place on the Section’s all-time rebound list after the win Friday night.


Foothills Christian has two games remaining this season against Bishop’s and Army- Navy. The Knights are assured the No. 1 seed in the San Diego Section Open Division should they win their final two and would likely be the section’s lone representative in the State’s Open Division should the Knights capture the San Diego Section Open Division title.


First things first though as the Knights look to wrap up a perfect 12-0 run through the Coastal League in their second year as a member of the league.


Foothills Christian:  T.J. Leaf 28 (12 reb, 3 stl, 2 ast, 1 blk), Luis Salgado 18 (6 reb, 3 ast, 2 stl, 1 blk), Nikko Paranada 13 (8 reb, 7 ast, 3 stl, 1 blk), Kale Baldado 10 (7 reb, 1 ast, 1 blk), Jordan Starr 5 (3 reb, 1 ast), Omajae Smith 3 (2 reb), T.J. Lowery 2 (2 blk, 1 reb, 1 ast), Connor George 2, Jordan VanOmmering (3 reb, 3 ast), Jaren Nafarrete (1 reb).

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