This edition of the Loma Linda Academy boys varsity basketball team features nine seniors who have played together for years. However, against Western Christian High School, two sophomores started and led the way to victory: Elijah Hill and Jonathan Im.
To open the game, the Roadrunners worked the ball inside as Hill and Michael Lawrence each scored 6 points. Elijah Ewing added a three pointer for Loma Linda. The Lancers countered with 6 points from their star, Orran Balagopalan, resulting in a 16-12 LLA lead.
LLA continued to take advantage of their post players as Lawrence dominated the boards and scored another 6 points while Hill made several nice moves to the basket from the high post position and also scored 6 in the second quarter. Nick Dalida hit 2 three pointers as LLA pulled away for a 42-23 halftime lead. Balagopalan scored 7 points for Western.
Hill had two monster blocked shots in the third quarter to go with his 6 points on field goals. With Western trying to stop his moves to the basket, he also went 5/6 from the charity stripe. LLA extended the lead to 61-36.
Coach Todd Ewing substituted liberally and Michael Siahan took full advantage during the first 90 seconds of the final period to score 5 points and pick up two fouls for the Roadrunners. Sahan's second basket started with him grabbing an offensive rebound and flipping a hook shot back in while engulfed by 3 Lancer players. Joe Rees led the team with 6 points and 3 steals.
And what did the other sophomore, Jonathan Im, do all game? He played aggressive man-defense against Balagopalan as part of a box-and-one scheme. Im chased Balagopalan all over the front court, shedding screens and denying passes while also bringing the ball down as point guard on offense. In the third quarter, Im held Balapopalan to one free throw during his time defending. Cameron Peterson, Ezra Panjiatan and Siahan shared defensive duties, but Jonathan Im did the bulk of it. That is a huge amount of energy to expend with no stats to show for it, but since this was an actual game rather than a fantasy league, the hard work paid off with a victory.
Hill finished with 25 points and Lawrence had 14. Rees, Dalida, Ewing and Justin Im each had 8 points. Loma Linda (17-7, 9-3) remains in second place of the Ambassador League and will travel to Aquinas next Tuesday.