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Canyon basketball loses in semifinals

Posted: March 4, 2014 11:04 p.m.
Updated: March 4, 2014 11:04 p.m.

ANAHEIM — Don’t expect the Canyon boys basketball team to say they were just happy to be here.

This Canyon Cowboys team expected to make it this deep into the playoffs, and they expected to keep winning.

But those high expectations made it that much more difficult for the Cowboys to swallow a 77-59 loss to the No. 1 seed Canyon Comanches of Anaheim in the semifinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division IIAA playoffs on Tuesday night at Anaheim’s version of Canyon High School.

“This is the best team I’ve ever played with. The best players, the best seniors, the best leadership,” said Cowboys junior guard Ben Taufahema, who scored a game-high 18 points.

In reality, it’s one of the best Canyon Cowboys teams ever.

With a finishing record of 24-7, the team tied a school record for wins on its way to advancing to the third CIF semifinal in school history.

The last two were in 2002 and 1978, which were also losses.

Canyon Country’s Canyon fell to a team that mirrored its style.

The Comanches (27-4) were a young, smaller team that played relentless defense and relied on strong guard play.

In particular, Canyon of Anaheim leaned on point guard Anthony Ballestero, who ran his offense with precision and helped a defensive effort that made every shot tough for the Cowboys.

“We try to keep the ball in front of them and help (on defense) and try to take away anything on the outside,” Ballestero said.

He scored 12 points and made numerous no-look passes to wide open teammates to set up easy baskets.

Ballestero was one of five Comanches who scored in double figures, with Nick Anderson’s 18 points leading the way.

“They have a lot of great players and they made a lot of great plays,” Taufahema said of his opponent.

Early on, both teams were having trouble hitting jump shots, which kept the score tight.

It was an even 12-12 after the first quarter and the Cowboys led for brief moments in the second quarter.

Taufahema put his team up 19-17 with a 3-pointer at the 5:33 mark of the second frame.

But right on cue, shots started falling for the Comanches, while the Cowboys couldn’t find consistency on offense.

“We just didn’t hit shots,” said Canyon Cowboys head coach Sean DeLong. “We didn’t run anything well tonight.”

After missing their first seven 3-point attempts, the home team hit two in a row to rile up a near sellout crowd.

Canyon of Anaheim finished the first half on a 7-0 run to take a 34-26 lead. It was a shift in momentum that would carry over to the second half and turn a close game into a runaway.

Canyon of Canyon Country trailed 56-39 after three quarters.

After Taufahema, Cowboys teammate Marc Cabrera added 12 points on a 6-of-8 shooting performance, while Mark Bell tacked on 10 points. Senior Dean Hendrix-Davis ended his Canyon career with nine points.

In the fourth quarter, Cabrera, Taufahema and Bell all fouled out. Many of those fouls were offensive charge calls.

“It’s a call that hurt us,” DeLong said.

But it wasn’t all for not on Tuesday night for the Cowboys, who will wait to find out if they will earn a spot in the CIF State Tournament next week.

“It meant a lot to me,” Hendrix-Davis said of his team’s playoff run. “We’ve come as far as any team at Canyon. We’re in the record books.”



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