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Orange Lutheran finds new winning formula
ORANGE – Unlike the high-octane, high-flying teams from seasons past, this year's Orange Lutheran boys basketball squad seems more likely to grind you into the hardwood than run you out of the gym.
Not that it matters, though. The Lancers' steady press, length and all-around athleticism can effortlessly stretch a slim lead into an insurmountable one just as effectively.
A late-third quarter run by No. 4 Orange Lutheran (3-0) set the foundation for its 79-52 victory over West Torrance in the semifinals of the Canyon-El Modena Kickoff Classic on Friday evening at El Modena High.
"We've had to be a little more methodical this year," Lancers coach Chris Nordstrom said. "We rededicated ourselves defensively; we kind of had to after losing six seniors from last year's team. Defense is now a bigger deal, especially with younger guys, and our length and athleticism helped us tonight."
Orange Lutheran — the tournament's defending champion — will face Canyon, a 1-point winner over Sonora, in today's championship game at 8p.m. at El Modena High.
"For this young group to get back to championship game is important for our development," Nordstrom said.
"Our guys enjoy playing Canyon; now we just have to find a way to stop them from making 3s. It'll be important for the young guys to compete tomorrow."
One of those underclassmen, 6-foot-7 forward Kendall Lauderdale, led the Lancers with 17 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks.
"It's hard to contain a great kid like Kendall," Nordstrom said.After taking an 11-point lead into the break, Orange Lutheran scored on five of its final six possessions of the third (including six points by Antwon Johnson) to close the quarter on a 10-2 run.
The Lancers then scored on their first 10 possessions of the fourth to distance themselves from the Warriors (2-1).
Despite a poor shooting night, Payton Banks finished with 14 points and six rebounds.
"I think that a year ago, if Payton had had a bad shooting night, he wouldn't have been as effective defensively," Nordstrom said.
"This year, he'll do things defensively that make us better. That's his maturity. It's a change that's important for us."
Xavier Basso scored a game-high 20 points for West Torrance.