East County Sports

Fallen Knights: Foothills ousted by nation No. 1 Huskies

T.J. Leaf is congratulated by his dad, Foothills Christian coach Brad Leaf, near the conclusion of the Knights' loss on Tuesday. / photo by Micah Escamilla - Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

SoCal Regional CIF Playoffs


By James McHugh

© East County Sports.com


ONTARIO (3-16-16) – The Foothills Christian offense never really found its rhythm on Tuesday night (Mar. 15) as the Knights saw their dream season end at the hands of the nation’s No. 1 team. Chino Hills defeated Foothills Christian for the third time this season, this time 82-62.


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Foothills Christian’s Jordan Starr goes up for a loose ball against Chino Hills on Tuesday night at Colony High.

Foothills again limited the Huskies to well below their 99.9 points-per-game average, but things weren’t clicking on the other side of the ball.


Chino Hills didn’t exactly shoot the lights out, but turnovers and too many second chances doomed the Knights’ chance of an upset.


T.J. LEAF finished the night with 34-points for Foothills, giving him 3,022 for his career. Leaf becomes just the seventh player in California history to eclipse the 3,000 point plateau, the last being his brother TROY LEAF who passed the mark in 2010 on his way to the San Diego Section scoring record.


No other Knights player finished in double figures on the night, a testament to the rough outing Foothills had after their two-hour drive to Colony High in Ontario, a location selected for its size and proximity to Chino Hills. Each of the 2,800 seats was filled and vocal throughout the night.


In what was a very physical game from the onset, Foothills’ shooting was absent and too much of the offensive burden fell on the back of their UCLA bound senior.


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The Knights’ T.J. Leaf is surrounded by Chino Hills’ stars during the CIF state regional semifinals Tuesday night.

The Knights had a rough night, but their seniors leave with one of the more exceptional and unprecedented seasons in San Diego Section history behind them. The Knights played on a national stage, appeared on ESPN and knocked off McDonald’s All-Americans on their way to San Diego’s second ever Open Division title.


The Knights knocked off a Santa Ana Mater Dei team that no San Diego section school had ever managed to defeat, and most had never dreamed of even placing on their schedule. Of the five losses that the Knights recorded on the season, four of them came against nationally ranked opponents, three to the No. 1 team in America. Corona Centennial whom the Knights defeated before losing to them at the Under Armour Holiday Classic was actually ranked in the top 50 in America until the Knights defeated them.


T.J. Leaf goes out as the second leading scorer in San Diego Section history. Leaf also finished with the 10th most assists, 7th most blocks, and 2nd most rebounds in section history.


LUIS SALGADO finishes his prep career as the Section’s all-time leading three point shooter in terms of three pointers made and shooting percentage. Salgado added one more three to his career total on Tuesday night and finished with five points.


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Foothills’ Omajae Smith defends against Chino Hills on Tuesday night in the state playoffs at Colony High School.

OMAJAE SMITH was plagued with foul trouble throughout the contest on Tuesday and sat most of the second and third quarters, finishing with two points. Smith finishes his prep career with 1,015 points.


NIKKO PARANADA had seven points on the night for Foothills and finishes his prep career with 1,341 career points.


The Knights end the season ranked the No. 1 team in San Diego for the second consecutive season and No. 3 in the state, though that may change as the Southern California and State champion are crowned. Regardless of where the rankings see these Knights at season’s end, this was one of the best teams the San Diego Section has seen in a very long time, playing one of toughest schedules year in and year out of most teams before it.


In ten seasons, Foothills Christian has littered its name across the CIF record books, advanced from Division V to the Open Division and captured seven San Diego Section CIF titles in Division V, II and Open. The Knights have advanced to a CIF title game in nine of the last ten seasons and played the likes of Santa Ana Mater Dei, Bishop Gorman, Chino Hills, Bishop O’Dowd and others on a regular basis.


If there is any takeaway for these Knights, the same Knights who were boosted from Division II to the Open Division last season because the Section felt it simply could not fail to send its best team against the state’s best, it is that they leave knowing they did it all against the best competition out there, year in and year out.


Foothills Christian:  TJ Leaf 34 (14 reb, 1 stl), Nikko Paranada 7 (5 reb, 4 ast, 3 stl, 1 blk), Jordan Van Ommering 6 (2 reb, 1 stl), Luis Salgado 5 (4 reb, 2 ast, 2 stl, 1 blk),  Jordan Starr 4 (2 reb, 1 ast, 1 blk), Jaren Nafarrete 2 (1 reb, 1 ast, 1 stl), Omajae Smith 2 (2 ast, 1 reb, 1 blk),  Kale Baldado 2.

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