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SCCS seeks first CIF hoops title

Posted: March 6, 2014 10:37 p.m.
Updated: March 6, 2014 10:37 p.m.
Santa Clarita Christian guard Cameron Lewis is expected to be a major factor in Saturday’s CIF-SS Division VA championship game. Santa Clarita Christian guard Cameron Lewis is expected to be a major factor in Saturday’s CIF-SS Division VA championship game.
Santa Clarita Christian guard Cameron Lewis is expected to be a major factor in Saturday’s CIF-SS Division VA championship game.

Even with the magnitude of its upcoming game, Santa Clarita Christian boys basketball can’t consider this a David vs. Goliath situation.

It’s more like David vs. David.

On Saturday in the CIF-Southern Section Division VA championship game, the SCCS Cardinals will face the Renaissance Academy Wildcats of La Canada, another team from a small school that has built into a championship-caliber program.

The game tips off at 9:30 a.m. at Godinez High School in Santa Ana.

On one side, you have the division’s No. 1 seed Renaissance coming in as an already established small-school powerhouse. On the other side, there’s the No. 3 seed SCCS, the new kid on the block when it comes to the big stage.

“This is exactly where they wanted to be and they’re excited. … I don’t think we’re awestruck or anything like that,” said SCCS head coach James Mosley.

The Cardinals (20-5) are playing in their first CIF title game in school history.

Games like this are nothing new to the Wildcats (20-7), who come from a school with a kindergarten through 12th grade enrollment of just 150 students. SCCS has 167 kids in high school alone.

Saturday will mark Renaissance’s fifth appearance in a CIF sectional title game. The team won the Southern Section Division VI championship in 2012, which was its most recent attempt.

The Wildcats lost the previous three title games, though they advanced to the CIF State Division V championship game in 2008.

But Renaissance head coach Sid Cooke said he’s not letting previous success dictate how Saturday’s game plays out.

“Whatever happens happens,” he said. “We’re happy to be there.”

The Wildcats are led in scoring by speedy junior guard Marquise Mosley, who averages just short of 15 points per game.

He’ll likely be guarded by SCCS junior Cameron Lewis, who is returning to form after coming back from a foot injury four games ago.

“It just gives us an added toughness defensively and then offensively we have inside personnel but he gives us that aspect of driving the ball to the basket,” Coach Mosley said of Lewis.

The toughest matchup for the Cardinals could be Renaissance’s 6-foot-6 senior shooting guard Marty Gaizauskas, who is scoring 12 points and pulling down five rebounds per game this year.

Though SCCS has capable big men in 6-7 Phillip Webb and 6-5 Chris Collins, it won’t be easy to defend a player like Gaizauskas with his combination of quickness and size.

The Wildcats’ best inside presence will come from senior Steve Herve. The 6-6 power forward is putting up 10 points and nine rebounds per contest this season.

From Renaissance’s perspective, the player to watch will be Cardinals point guard Kameron Carroll, the senior transfer from Alemany who has been the team’s offensive engine all season.

Carroll averages 14 points and 5.5 assist per game, and he’ll be a key factor in helping SCCS keep pace with a polished team like Renaissance.

“I figure it’s going to be a really close game in the end and hopefully we can do well,” Cooke said. “I know the kids will play hard.”

The Wildcats got to this point by testing themselves early by playing three teams in Division IAA, the Southern Section’s highest division. Renaissance managed to beat one of those teams, Corona, 50-39.

When it comes to its own division, Renaissance has yet to be challenged and has spent most of the season ranked No. 1.

The Wildcats, who finished second in the Harbor League, have won their four playoff games by an average of more than 40 points.

SCCS hasn’t been far behind, spending most of the season ranked among the top five in the division while also playing against upper-tier Southern Section teams.

The only close call so far in the postseason for SCCS came in last week’s 52-45 semifinal win over Capistrano Valley Christian on Feb. 28.

The goal is to keep the game close, Coach Mosley said. But then again, even that might not be a simple task.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Coach Mosley said of the championship game. “We’re excited for the opportunity. We’re going to have to play well.”


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