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Orangewood Academy dominate to the end
SANTA ANA – The continuity of a senior-laden team is a prize that most coaches will take in a heartbeat.
Orangewood Academy’s boys basketball team started four seniors in the CIF-SS Division 6 championship game.
But it was junior center Mubashar Ali that made the difference for the Spartans in their 82-54 victory over Hesperia Christian Saturday night at Godinez High.
Ali had 16 points, 15 rebounds, and 7 blocks as Orangewood Academy captured its first title in school history.
“His personality’s large just like his body is,” Spartans coach Rob Brooks said of the 6-foot-11 Ali. “He’s a special player. We’re happy to have him.”
The Spartans (20-12) received an at-large playoff berth after finishing third in the San Joaquin League. Orangewood Academy honored its top seeding in Division 6 by beating its opponents by an average of 40.2 points.
Jared Hays, Brad Leontas, and Austin Luton helped the Patritots (23-8) knock down five first-half 3-pointers to keep it competitive. The Spartans led, 34-21, at halftime.
Ali came from Finland this year. His three blocks in the third quarter were a major part of a 14-0 run that helped Orangewood Academy pull away in the second half.
“I get to bring something back home,” Ali said excitedly while holding up his new CIF Championship patch. “I know (my country is) proud of me. They just sent me a message today telling me to win.”
Marcus Berkley had a game-high 21 points. Houston native Caleb Thomas added 16 points, and El Modena transfer Justin Canzoneri added 11 for the Spartans.
Canzoneri said the team had growing pains, but the goal of winning CIF was a unifying force.
“When we first came together, we didn’t have the best chemistry,” he said. “We worked through it. We’re not from this area. We all came (here) with the goal to win CIF.”