East County Sports

Knights win UA Holiday Classic title




EastCountySports.com staff report


DEL MAR – Foothills Christian won the championship game of the Under Armour Holiday Classic National Division Friday night, knocking off St. John’s, of Washington, D.C., 61-57, at Torrey Pines High.


The Knights’ sensational star JAYLEN HANDS scored 42 points in the win and was named the tournament division’s most valuable player after breaking the tournament scoring record.

Also, Foothills’ JORDAN VAN OMMERING was named to the all-tournament team.

“Our team played hard and the fans came out and showed love, there’s nothing better than that,” said Hands, who made 14-of-16 free throws on the night. “Whenever we play, we know we’re going to come out strong and hard.”

Hands’ play in the event reminded many fans of this prestigious tournament the performance of St. Patrick (N.J.) star Kyrie Irving, who wowed crowds here back in 2009 en route to the National Division championship.

To win the elite division of one of the nation’s toughest holiday tournaments, the Knights won four games in four nights.

But it didn’t come without a battle from the Cadets, the D.C. region’s seventh-ranked team coming in.

St. John’s missed a pair of free throws with under 10 seconds remaining that would’ve tied the game.

A 15-0 run in the third period, keyed by the play-making and 10 points of Hands, broke open a close game at halftime.

Hands buried a step-back three at the third-period buzzer to give the Knights a 45-38 edge. The completion of the surge extended the lead to 52-38.

St. John’s stuck it out to eventually pull to within three points with :30.5 left when Reese Mona hit a three-pointer. The Cadets eventually pulled to within one-point with :17.4 remaining after a driving layup by sophomore Casey Morsell.

FCHS led 13-8 after one, as Van Ommering hit a pair of three-pointers for his only points of the game. But the defenses seemed to rule the outset.

The Cadets put a run together to take the lead near the end of the second period, but Hands had a basket and conversion with 1:30 left to give the Knights a 22-20 lead.

The game was tied 24-all at halftime.

In the third quarter, St. John’s center Richard Njoku received a pair of questionable technicals that left many on media row scratching their collective heads.

The departure of the big man seemed to lead Foothills Christian to the surge on the court and emotionally that they would need to finally open up a lead.

St. John’s College High would regroup nicely, however, behind Mona and 6-foot-3 University of San Diego commit F Emanuel Hylton. Both stars finished with 14 points.

KALE BALDADO added nine points for FCHS, while teammate T.J. LOWERY added six points.

JALEN NAFARETTE had a pair of big free throws during the latter minutes of the contest, as did Hands in the final seconds. Hands added seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Foothills Christian, which improved to 12-2, was coached in the tournament by THOMAS LOWERY, as head coach BRAD LEAF was in Oregon for the week, watching his son, T.J., play for UCLA on the Oregon swing.

Coach Leaf wins his second UA Holiday Classic tournament title as a head coach, having guided Steele Canyon to the championship in 2004.







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