# 11 – Valley Christian vs. # 6 – Mission Bay

Coming off their semi-final loss to Maranatha High School (Pasadena, CA) on February 27th, Valley Christian had to sit and wait almost two weeks to learn if they had made it into the Division 4 State Playoffs.  Head Coach Bryan Branderhorst of the Valley Christian (Cerritos, CA) said this of their trip to the State Playoffs, “Playing in state regionals is a real honor.  Only a handful of teams get to that point.” The Crusaders traveled to Mission Bay High School (San Diego, CA).

The game started with the Crusaders and the Buccaneers hitting a quick bucket making the game quickly 3-2 Crusaders, but then the Buccaneers went on a 8-0 run to make their lead 10-3.  Valley then returned the favor and went on a 7-0 with the teams trading baskets until the end of the quarter.  The second quarter, though, was not as nice to Valley as they would have liked.  The Mission Bay Buccaneers went on an extended 13-3 run, which extended their lead to 30-18 with about 4 minutes remaining.  At the five-minute mark, Crusader PG Stedmon Bryant grabbed at his knee while dribbling the ball and had the ball stolen for an easy two point basket by Mission Bay PG Justin Moore.  Bryant, who has already had an early season knee injury, came out of the game and did not play again the rest of the night.  “We cannot replace Stedmon.  He has been one of our leaders for three years already,” said Branderhorst, ”His explosiveness will certainly be missed.  However, since we played so many games without him early in the season with the knee injury, it is certainly not something we cannot overcome.  We have great depth and need those guys to step up.”

And step up the Crusader lineup did.  Down by 10 to start the third quarter, the Crusaders started what would be an explosive run.  The Crusaders took the lead on a 15-3 run capped off by a big three pointer by Junior PG Robert Downs. This made it 40-38 with about a minute and half left in the third quarter. The fourth quarter was a well-played defensive quarter. After trading baskets for most of the quarter, it was 47-46 Buccaneers until Senior Kyle Westra knocked down a three pointer to make it 49-47. After a questionable foul call sent PG Justin Moore to the line, he knocked down two free-throws, which tied the game at 49 all and sent us to overtime.

In the overtime period both teams matched each other shot for shot with Crusader Junior Johnny Johnson hitting a three pointer to take the lead 55-52 and Buccaneer Mike Polinski hitting a three pointer to tie the game and end the first overtime period. The second overtime period was as intense as the first, but the Crusaders ended the game on a 9-0 run capped off by free-throws by Johnson and Westra.

The defensive effort put up by Valley Christian in the second half and the overtime periods was a much better showing than the first half where the Crusaders gave up thirty-five points.  The second half consisted of seven point quarters in the third and fourth, and a total of nine points in two overtime periods. “Our defensive improvement was mostly due to a gritty bunch of guys that refuse to give in.  We did switch personnel on their best player and did a better job of building our team defense to stop #25.” said Branderhorst. “We also switched lots of screens down the stretch.  We felt that slowed down their ability to create.  Most of it was will.”

This game marked only the second State Regional Playoff game in Crusader history, but it is one that they will never forget.  “Given the limited history of state playoffs in California, I do not want to elevate what we have done too highly.  However, we are proud of playing this deep into the post season.  Certainly this is one of the best Valley Christian teams there have been, but I’m not going to get into comparing past teams and accomplishments,” noted Branderhorst.

The Crusaders next play at Crespi High School on Saturday Night at 6pm.

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