No. 12 Orange Lutheran came into their semifinal matchup as the Cinderella story of the CIF-SS Open Division Tournament.
Enter No. 1 seed Bishop Montgomery, looking to play the role of spoiler and to keep their 20-game winning streak alive.
The Bishop Montgomery Knights stopped the Lancers in their tracks, winning 69-47.
Saturday night's CIF Southern Section semifinal between the top-seeded Bishop Montgomery Knights (28-1) and the 12th seeded Orange Lutheran Lancers (24-4) was truly greeted by the playoff atmosphere it deserved. Roughly 500 people packed the gym at Hope International University, including a massive showing from the Lancers' student section. Lutheran's student section, which from a distance looked more like a crowded Halloween party, featured several zealous students wearing fun costumes with no apparent rhyme or reason, such as a leprechaun, Waldo, and even a Moses (just prior to the second half, "Moses" danced down the middle of the student section as if to part the sea of students wearing Lancer red).
The game's first few minutes were controlled by Lutheran’s fast-paced, three-point based offense.
This early lead came much to the delight of the Lancers’ student section, who entertained all the fans with their colorful cheers. The Knights appeared to be fighting a dual battle against the vocal Lancer supporters and early game jitters.
Even Stephen Thompson Jr., the Knights' wiry Oregon State-bound superstar who recently broke Bishop Montgomery's school record for points scored in a high school career, was out of sync early on, as he missed four of his first five field goal attempts.
However, the Knights’ found their stride on offense and defense. By the end of the first quarter, they led 15-8.
At this point, the Knight’s student section, albeit much smaller than that of Orange Lutheran, chanted “scoreboard.” This seemed to silence the Lancer fans for the rest of the quarter.
Sparked by a late rally, the Lancers went into halftime down by nine, with a score of 29-20.
The Lancers looked to carry that streak into the second half, but Bishop Montgomery had other ideas. The Knights went on a 7-0 run right out of halftime, forcing the Lancers to call a timeout to regroup.
The timeout was of little help, as Orange Lutheran could not get their three-point shots to fall, or stop the Knights’ offensive attack. They went into the fourth quarter with a 53-30 deficit.
The Knights put out any sparks the Lancers created on offense, and made it nearly impossible to stop their offensive attack, led by senior Stephen Thompson Jr. and freshman David Singleton.
Bishop Montgomery's most notable contribution came from their sixth man, David Singleton, who scored a game-high 19 points, including four 3-pointers. The more the game progressed, the easier the Knights made it look; several of their baskets, particularly in the second half, came courtesy of transition layups and open jumpers.
Thompson Jr., the Knights' wiry Oregon State-bound star, chipped in 18. Thompson Jr. may be playing for his father, Stephen Thompson, Oregon State’s third basketball assistant, next season, but no one will chalk up Thompson Jr.’s future play time to nepotism.
Ethan Thompson, Stephen’s brother, added 12 points to bolster the Knight’s impressive win.
The Lancers' offensive attack was a far different story, as they just couldn't get into any sort of rhythm. With the exception of shooting guard Chris Williams' three first half three pointers (which accounted for 9 of his 11 points), the Lancers' attempts to make the Knights pay from the perimeter was a completely lost cause. Lancer big man Keisean Lucier-South led his team with a hard-earned 17 points,
The Knights look to capture the CIF-SS Open Division Championship, which will take place Saturday, March 7 at the Honda Center. They will face the winner of the No. 2 Mater Dei - No. 6 Etiwanda game. A Knights victory would give head coach Doug Mitchell his 5th CIF-SS title.
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