East County Sports

Knights continue open season on Coastal competition

FCHS warms up prior to Wednesday night's contest at Bishop's



By James McHugh

© East CountySports.com
LA JOLLA (2-18-16) — Foothills Christian cruised to their 11th straight Coastal League victory Wednesday night (Feb. 17) with a 75-29 victory over Bishop’s.


A few years back the CIF San Diego Section went to a competitive balance format for the playoffs. Foothills Christian’s lopsided victory over Bishop’s showed, in some terms, how that system is working for the better.


Just last Friday (Feb. 12) West Hills went into Grossmont High School and downed the Foothillers on their home floor. Grossmont is currently the No. 1 team in the Division I power rankings. West Hills is currently No. 1 in the Division II power rankings.


A night later (Feb. 13) Bishop’s waltzed into Santee and nearly stole a non-league matchup against the Wolf Pack, collapsing in the fourth quarter. Regardless, the current No. 15 Bishop’s Knights showed that anyone in Division II can play with anyone else in Division II. Most teams in Division II can play with the majority of teams in Division I.


Then there’s the Open Division. The Open Division teams are 85-7 against other San Diego Section teams not currently part of the Open Division equation, with No. 7 Poway, No. 6 Mission Bay and No. 5 Torrey Pines accounting for most of those losses.


It would seem that the right eight team field will be representing the section come state playoff time, and the Knights’ route of Bishop’s Wednesday night showed the distance between the elite of the Open Division and the teams that will fall below.


Bishop’s seemed determined from the onset to play a slow paced, low scoring game with Foothills Christian, as has been the La Jolla resident’s creed the past few seasons. Foothills had other plans. The Knights jumped out to a 13-0 lead before Bishop’s even managed three shot attempts on the night. Coach BRAD LEAF’s team wasn’t done though, putting together another 9-0 run to close the first quarter at 22-2.


Foothills applied less pressure in the second but things didn’t get any easier for Bishop’s. T.J. LEAF poured in 18 of his game high 26 points before the break including a series of highlight reel dunks.


Senior NIKKO PARANADA had just four points on the evening but racked up eight rebounds, not usually the guard’s assignment on the floor. Paranada collected a series of loose balls that led to easy baskets for his team and more frustration for Bishop’s.


“I thought Nikko looked really good tonight running the team. He’s getting healthy again which is encouraging,” assistant coach TROY LEAF said of the senior guard after the game.


Junior KALE BALDADO threw down an alley-oop pass from T.J Leaf in the third quarter which had many of the Bishop’s fans in attendance talking and wondering about how many of the Foothills players were able to do what they had just seen. On this particular night the answer was three. OMAJAE SMITH also joined the dunk parade with a flush off his own steal. Smith finished the night with 11 points.


LUIS SALGADO added two, three pointers to his section record total and had 10 points on 4-7 shooting from the field for the game. Salgado played less than usual in the second half, paving the way for some of the Knights’ younger players like T.J. LOWERY and JAREN NAFARRETE to get quality minutes on the court.


The victory sets up a showdown Friday night (Feb. 19) at Army-NavyAcademy in Carlsbad for the Coastal League Crown. Foothills Christian has already secured at least a share of the title and is mathematically likely to hold onto the No. 1 seed in the Open Division playoffs regardless of the results. The game looms large for the Warriors however, a loss could mean that Torrey Pines would leapfrog Army-Navy into fourth place in the Open Division, giving the Falcons a home game against the Warriors.


Troy Leaf is aware that the final game of the regular season will have minimal playoff repercussions for the Knights, but that doesn’t mean the Warriors will be in for an easy upset. “We have seniors who want to go out on top. And that means the league, San Diego, whatever. They want to win any kind of title possible. We’ll get after it tomorrow in practice like we always do and be ready for the physicality of a road game at Army-Navy,” Leaf concluded.


Foothills Christian:  T.J. Leaf 26 (11 reb, 6 ast, 5 stl, 2 blk), Kale Baldado 13 (2 reb, 1 ast, 1 stl), Omajae Smith 11 (5 reb, 3 ast, 1 stl), Luis Salgado 10 (4 reb), Jordan Starr 5 (8 reb, 3 blk, 2 ast), Nikko Paranada 4 (8 reb, 4 stl, 3 ast), Jordan Van Ommering 3 (1 reb, 1 blk), Connor George 3 (1 reb), TJ Lowery (3 reb, 2 stl, 1 ast), Jaren Nafarrete (1 ast, 1 stl).

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