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Chatsworth, CA – After winning each game of the Hart Holiday Classic last week by an average of 37.5 points, the Sierra Canyon Trailblazers (10-1) faced a tough challenge from the Cantwell-Sacred Heart Cardinals (14-3), but found just enough strength to pull out an 87-81 win at home.
It was the ninth consecutive win for the Trailblazers.
Each time the Trailblazers would go on a run to seemingly create some separation, the Cardinals would answer back, mostly off a barrage of three-point shots, to close the gap once again.
It took a few clutch shots, a couple defensive stops, and a big rebound off a missed free throw from sophomore forward Terren Frank to finally hold off the Cardinals.
“They shot the heck out of the ball, I don’t know how we put them away,” Trailblazers head coach Andre Chevalier said after the game. “We have to be better than that defensively, we have to make sure we get back.”
The Trailblazers gave up several open looks to the Cardinals from the three-point line on defensive lapses that almost cost them the game. Their offense wasn’t particularly crisp as it had been in previous games, particularly in the paint, as the Cardinals had the size up front to counter them.
“These teams who are 14-2 and used to winning, they keep grinding and they keep playing,” Chevalier said. “We have to be better at that.”
Aside from the win, the Trailblazers welcomed junior guard Cassius Stanley back into the lineup. Stanley transferred over the summer from Harvard-Westlake and was required to sit out a period of time before suiting up.
He finished the game with 19 points and was excited to get back out on the court.
“It was great, we had such great chemistry. All my teammates are just so much fun,” Stanley said. “I’ve been looking forward to this since the summer, just getting out there, having fun and winning.”
Stanley started out a bit slow at first, but as the game went on he began to get more comfortable with the flow of the game. He attacked the rim with ease, knocked down perimeter jumpers, and found his teammates for open looks.
“I was pretty stiff and nervous in the beginning, I’m not gonna lie,” Stanley said. “I felt a little lost, I felt out of place. I was like, ‘it’s just basketball, just go out there and play.’”
Stanley adds yet another weapon to an already talented Trailblazers team. Junior forward K.J. Martin and junior guard Scotty Pippen Jr. also added 19 points each. Senior guard Duane Washington Jr. had 14, and Frank added 12.
“It was wonderful, [Stanley] was a little fatigued because he hasn’t played a whole lot,” Chevalier said. “His skill level, his understanding of the game, it was great.”
While Cantwell-Sacred Heart was a good test, the Trailblazers will face arguably their biggest challenge of the season on Friday night against Bishop Montgomery. The Knights are 12-0, and they defeated the Trailblazers in last year’s CIF Southern Section Open Division playoffs.
“They’re a very well coached team, very, very seasoned team,” Stanley said. “People wouldn’t say we’re seasoned, but I think that our leadership on our team, all of us hold each other accountable. We’re doing pretty well when it comes down to it and I think that could help us.”