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27TH ANNUAL NIKE EXTRAVAGANZA – Medina’s three-pointer lifts Valley Christian after Defenders blow double-digit lead



By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

SANTA ANA-For nearly four seasons, Valley Christian High senior Nathan Medina has been nothing short of spectacular, coming up with big shots game in and game out. Arguably one of the best ever to play for the school, Medina came up with another clutch shot last Friday against St. Margaret’s High in the 27th annual Nike Extravaganza at the Meruelo Athletic Center on the Mater Dei High campus.

With the score tied 60-60 and time running down in regulation, Medina launched a three-point attempt and won the game with 4.8 seconds remaining as the Defenders knocked off the Tartans 63-60. It was his third basket from beyond the arc in the game and saved the Defenders from another second half collapse in which they blew a 15-point lead over the final 12 and a half minutes.

“He has a great will to win and a great will to score, and when it’s all said and done, he wanted to win the game,” said V.C. first-year head coach Tom Lewis of his leading scorer. “He hit the big shot, which I’m proud of him. That’s what you want to see from your seniors.”

What’s remarkable about Medina’s performance is that he was playing with a tweaked ankle from the previous night in a 69-58 loss at Heritage Christian High in which he failed to score for the first time this season. He didn’t start against St. Margaret’s but made his presence known nearly midway through the opening quarter when he drained a three-pointer to put his team up 11-6. He would end the stanza with another long range basket with 1.8 ticks left, extending V.C.’s advantage to 19-10.

Despite playing for the second time in 18 hours, the Defenders were holding their own in the first half against the ninth-ranked team in the CIF-Southern Section’s Division 4AAl. They began the second quarter on a 7-0 run and led 31-13 with 4:35 remaining the half, their largest lead of the game. However, the Tartans closed the half on a 12-0 run over the final 3:14 and for the first time, V.C. was feeling the affects of the early afternoon game following a late night contest.

“Playing a game last night, and when you play Heritage [Christian] in our league and playing [today], we were gassed and we couldn’t get any consistency going,” Lewis said. “But when it’s all said and done, whoever makes the last few plays when it’s tied wins the game. Thank god Nate made some great shots for us.”

V.C. quickly turned its six-point halftime lead into a 15-point lead within the first 3:26 of the second half thanks to half a dozen points from senior Micah Sybesma and a three-point play from Medina following one of his three rebounds. But little by little, St. Margaret’s chipped away at its deficit and after Lewis called a timeout with 4:17 remaining in the game, up by five points, the Tartans scored the next seven points on a basket from Russell Frye, a three-pointer from Dylan Cormac and the go-ahead basket from Sam Dunnell with 1:56 left in the game. It was the first time the Defenders had trailed in the game.

But with 1:22 left, Medina tied the contest with a pair of free throws and half a minute later, sophomore Jacob Bayla put V.C. up with two free throws. Bayla scored a career-high 26 points on 10 of 14 shooting from the field. He also had three rebounds and three steals in playing all 32 minutes. It was just the second time Bayla has scored over 20 points this season.

“Well, I didn’t take him out,” Lewis said. “He’s just starting to really come into his own and it’s a great time of the year for him to come into his own. I’m proud of him; he’s worked extremely hard.”

Medina scored 18 points while Sybesma who did not miss a shot or free throw, added 10 points. The win was the third this season against a team currently ranked among the top 16 in its respective division.

“We’re hoping it helps,” Lewis said. “That’s our goal. We talked about it before the game and at halftime that we needed [the win]. Hey, we got out of this building with a win and now I can go relax for about seven hours.”

V.C. would then knock off Whittier Christian High 54-45 this past Tuesday to improve to 17-9 overall and 3-4 in the circuit. The Defenders concluded the regular season at Olympic League-leading Village Christian High on Feb. 3, the fourth-ranked team in Division 2AA and will finish in third place. Four of the five teams in the Olympic League will end the regular season with a winning record and the fifth team, Maranatha High, began the week one game above .500. The CIF-SS playoff brackets will be released on Tuesday with wild card action beginning on Wednesday and first round action starting on Feb. 11.

“Our league is in the top three leagues in Southern California,” Lewis said. “We have some of the best teams in Southern California. It’s a great opportunity for kids to play against really good players and really good teams and some outstanding coaches. It’s a grind. I coached in the Trinity League; that’s a grind, but this is a grind, too. You go on the road every game [and] you have to show up. There are no games off.”