CHATSWORTH — Trailing by 17 points in the fourth quarter, the Sierra Canyon boys basketball team didn’t throw in the towel against Notre Dame.
The Trailblazers didn’t falter, didn’t start pointing fingers, didn’t let the opposition’s momentum get to them.
Instead, the adversity brought them together.
Bryce Cofield and Isaiah Elohim combined for 21 points in the fourth quarter to lead Sierra Canyon to a stunning 81-75 victory over Notre Dame Friday night in the Mission League finale.
“Our mindset was to stay locked in, stay the course and everything will fall in line,” Cofield said. “Keep the team focused, not get stagnant or separated as a group. Just come together and stay locked in. It’s very important for all of us to stick together and we can win any game. We can do anything if we just stay together and support each other.”
Sierra Canyon used a smothering full-court press down the stretch that forced Notre Dame into 10 turnovers in the final six minutes.
Along with the suffocating defensive pressure, the Trailblazers crashed the offensive glass with ferocity, taking advantage of the vacancy in the paint with Notre Dame’s center Bronson Schmidt-Uili having fouled out.
Cofield had a handful of offensive rebounds that led to second-chance points and along with Elohim, attacked the rim.
“They’re warriors. They may not do everything right, but when it comes down to it and it counts, they are warriors,” Sierra Canyon head coach Andre Chevalier said about Cofield and Elohim. “They went to war tonight and I’m so proud of them. That’s all you can ask for from the team.”
For the first 24 minutes, it was mostly the Knights in control. Junior point guard Lino Mark got off to a hot start, hitting two 3-pointers in the first half and showcasing his speed by going coast-to-coast off missed shots.
He had 15 points in the first half and finished with 21 points total, but didn’t score in the fourth quarter.
Mercy Miller had a game-high 28 points for Notre Dame and was shooting at a high percentage from the field, but with Sierra Canyon’s full-court press in action in the fourth quarter, he had trouble getting the ball in a halfcourt set.
“Once we found the groove and got stops on defense, that set it off and we got the W,” Sierra Canyon guard Jayden Alexander said. “We were able to overcome. We knew what we had to win for the number one spot in California, win the Mission League and payback from last year.”
Justin Pippen led the Trailblazers in scoring with 19 points. Elohim logged 18 points and Cofield finished with 14 points. Noah Williams scored 12 points and Bryce James had eight points off the bench, including two 3-pointers.
With the win, Sierra Canyon secured the No. 1 spot in the Mission League Tournament and will play its first game of the tournament Wednesday at home. Notre Dame will also play at home Wednesday as the No. 2 seed.
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