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Cibola takes down Australian school
It turned out that it was the Cibola boys basketball team that had to play from down under.
The King's School of Sydney, Australia jumped out to an early lead but the Raiders recovered and escaped with a 58-46 win in the first round of the Southwest Rotary Classic on Thursday night at home.
Senior guard Jordan Mitchell had a team-high 19 points and seven assists for the Raiders, but Cibola made its move in a stretch of hot shooting by sophomore guard Isaiah Brown (11 points) and junior wing Noah Thompson (9 points) in the second quarter. Freshman post Will Pearce had 21 of his game-high 25 points in the first half for TKS and finished with 13 rebounds in a losing effort.
“Cibola in our conference, they would be a middle of the pack team,” TKS coach Delmas Green said. “We got a group of Aussies – we got some good teams in our conference. But (Cibola) shot the ball very well, very well.”
The King's School plays in a conference with international rules – which means a 24-second shot clock, wider lanes and a deeper 3-point line.
Despite having a roster full of freshmen and sophomores, TKS jumped out to a quick 10-1 run to start the game and forced Cibola coach Tim Keller into a timeout.
“We didn't come out hard. Everybody was saying these guys weren't that good, they weren't that this, they weren't that that,” Keller said. “They didn't come 6,000 miles to lose.”
The Raiders (4-0) finally climbed their way out of a deficit when Thompson hit a 3-pointer to make it 18-18 with 4:02 left in the second quarter and Brown hit a three of his own 30 seconds later to give Cibola its first lead of the night.
Both Thompson and Brown connected on another 3-pointer and a layup by Mitchell finished a 11-2 run that made it 32-22.
“That was the turning point of the game,” Green said.
“I was feeling it but my teammates were finding me,” said Brown, who also added the last basket of the half for the Raiders.
The Australians caught a tough break early in the third when Pearce picked up his fourth foul with 5:42 left to go in the quarter and the freshman, who scored all of TKS' points in the second, was forced to the bench until the fourth quarter.
“The young fella is a freshman and he's out there bumping bodies with seniors, and my point guard (Jay Green) he's a freshman and they're 13- and 14-year-olds going up against 16- and 17-year-olds and I think they held our own,” Delmas Green said. “But getting them in foul late killed us because it took them out of their game.”
TKS cut the Raider lead to 40-38 late in the third but wouldn't get closer than that. Junior Ysaias Caudras came up with two key baskets – including a 3-pointer in the right corner early in the fourth – to boost the Raiders back into a comfortable lead and the game was never in doubt the rest of the way.
“Legitimately, we have five, six, maybe even seven guys who could be our leading scorer any given night,” Keller said. “I've known that from the start of the year.”
Senior post Steven Loucks added 10 points, nine rebounds and four blocks for the Raiders.
The Raiders face Meadows in the second round at 12:30 p.m. today at Cibola, and The King's School heads to the losers bracket where it will play Sahaurita at 9:30 a.m. today at Cibola.
For Keller, the experience of playing the sneaky good Australians proved a valuable lesson to the Raiders.
“That was a really good game for us,” he said. “We need games like that. That game was going to make us better.”
Jesse Severson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 539-6881. Find him on Facebook at facebook.com/YSJesseSeverson.