Canyon's Anthony Ballestero pushes past Orange Lutheran defender C.J. Hankins during the championship game of the El Modena-Canyon Hoops Kickoff Classic on Saturday.

Orange Lutheran triumphs in Kickoff Classic


ORANGE - For the Orange Lutheran boys basketball team, anything less than a victory in the championship game of the El Modena-Canyon Hoops Kickoff Classic on Saturday night would have been a disappointment.

The fourth-ranked Lancers proved to be the elite team of the early-season tournament with a hard-fought victory, 72-53, over No. 10 Canyon at El Modena High.

The Lancers (4-0) won the tournament for the second consecutive year by controlling the flow of the game for the most part and by making the plays they needed to down the stretch.

“One of the things we talk about a lot, especially in the preseason with tournaments, is that you have to learn how to win," Orange Lutheran coach Chris Nordstrom said. "And that’s a really important thing.

"Winning a tournament championship can really help your team know that we’ve done it before, so when you get to playoff time you can say we’ve done this.”

With his team trailing in the fourth quarter, Canyon guard JoJo Ballestero drove to the basket and dished the ball to Chandler Dignam, who finished the play with a layup to cut Orange Lutheran’s lead to 54-48.

Canyon (3-1) was beginning to gain momentum, but on the next play the referee's dealt the Knights a blow by calling a technical foul on Coach Nate Harrison for being out of the coaching box.

The Lancers made one of two free throws, making it 55-48.

A few possessions later, Canyon had a chance to cut the lead to two, but Ballestero missed a 3-point shot from the wing.

Lutheran then went on a 14-1 run. The Lancers hit their foul shots down the stretch to finish off the Knights.

Penn State-bound small forward Payton Banks led the Lancers with 29 points and was named tournament MVP.  The Lancers' Brian Beard and Kendall Lauderdale were named to the all-tournament team.

Ballestero led the Comanches with 18 points.

Orange Lutheran was 30 of 46 from the free throw line, while Canyon was 22 of 27. 

The Lancers led for all four quarters.

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