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ORANGE HOLIDAY CLASSIC: Valley Christian put in a big hole early, loses badly to La Mirada in rematch affair

By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter


FULLERTON-For the second straight season, the Valley Christian High boys basketball team hooked up with La Mirada High in the Orange Holiday Classic. But this season’s game was a far cry from last season’s first round game that featured a combined 14 seniors out of 30 players between the two teams.

La Mirada won last season’s affair 65-62 on a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Ian Carter. There would be no dramatics this time around as the Matadores scored the first 13 points of the game and cruised to an 83-55 win this past Tuesday night at Hope International University.

“You’re just excited about the chance to compete and play whoever is in front of you,” said V.C. head coach Bryan Branderhorst of facing La Mirada again. “So we don’t worry about that a lot. We try to prepare the same way for everybody. It wasn’t good enough today.”

V.C. didn’t score until the 4:09 mark of the first quarter when senior Jalen Hines scored off a pass from junior Jacob Green. La Mirada went up 20-4 before the Crusaders scored the last seven points of the quarter.

After a free throw from senior Johnny Johnson early in the second quarter, the Matadores reeled off eight straight points to open up a 30-12 advantage with 5:20 remaining in the first half. The Crusaders, who trailed by 20 points at halftime, shot five of 17 from the field in the second quarter and only scored consecutive baskets once in the half. Hines came off the bench to score eight points in the half on four of six shooting.

“To use a boxing analogy, they had us on our heels and up against the ropes early,” Branderhorst said. “They kept hitting and we had a hard time getting back. We were defensive all night; they were the aggressors and they took it to us. They shot the ball really well, especially early, and put us in that hole.”

V,C, was still unable to get any momentum going in the third quarter, nearly trading basket for basket and was able to get its deficit under 20 points with 3:07 remaining in the third quarter following consecutive baskets from Green and freshman Gorden Boykins.

Hines would lead the Crusaders with a season-high 14 points while Green and senior Aaron Purnell added 12 and 11 points respectively. Green also had five steals but as a team, V.C. grabbed just 20 rebounds.

“Just compete and have a lot of pride,” Branderhorst said of his halftime speech to his team. “Keep swinging and going at people. I thought Jacob Green was good all game. He was very aggressive doing that. It was good to see Jalen Hines go a little bit too. He’s been awfully rusty and it was good to see him get going a little bit.”

The Crusaders would bounce back the next night to knock off Great Oak High 54-48 as Purnell led the way with 16 points followed by Johnson’s 14 points. The win over Great Oak improved V.C.’s record to 8-5 and considering all that the Crusaders have gone through thus far, the record isn’t too bad. Two losses have been by less than 10 points with another loss by 10 points. The loss to La Mirada was the worst this season. In addition, three players missed the first six games because of their obligations to the football team and Branderhorst is still waiting for junior transfer Julio Martinez to become eligible.

“It’s been kind of up and down,” Branderhorst said. “It’s just been a transition all the time as far as what our roster is and who we have and what position guys play because we’ve waited for some bodies. It’s a work in progress. One day you feel pretty good about it and one day you can’t figure anything else out. Today was one of those days.”

The Crusaders finished the tournament on Dec. 29 and will host Villa Park High on Tuesday. The Olympic League opener will be two days later against Heritage Christian High.