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Roadrunners Steal First Victory

Loma Linda Academy held key advantages in experience and height.

Despite entering the game against Western Christian with an 0-5 record, LLA held key advantages in experience and height. The Lancers suited only 8 players and started a line up consisting of one senior, three sophomores and one freshman.

One of the sophomores, Orran Balagopalan, sparked the Lancers in the first quarter by getting penetration into the lane and scoring 6 points. Joe Powers, another sophomore added 4. Junior guard Justin Im kept the score respectable by leading LLA with 4 points. Senior forward Chris Lawrence dominated the boards with 4 rebounds and 3 free throws until he picked up his second foul. At the end of the period, LLA found itself once again trailing 16-11. Coach Claridge challenged the team to get four defensive stops and they would be back in the game.

Senior guard Dante Thomson took up the challenge personally as he proceeded to steal everything in the gymnasium that was not bolted down. On the first two Lancer possessions, Thomson swiped the dribble away at mid court and laid in fast break lay ups. Aggressive team defense held the Lancers scoreless for the first 4:34 of the period and closed off the paint entirely. Western managed to score only 2 three point field goals in the period and LLA seized a 30-23 halftime lead. Thomson finished the quarter with 4 steals, three assists, two rebounds and 4 points. Junior guard Nick Dalida led LLA with 6 points including a three pointer.

Junior guard Joe Rees took over after halftime with three consecutive individual attacks into the paint. Junior forward Dakota Jordan grabbed 4 rebounds as LLA extended its lead to 40-31.

LLA actually built a double digit lead in the fourth led by Im with another 4 points. Coach Claridge emptied his bench for the last 2 minutes of the game allowing Balagopalan and Powers, to whittle the final differential to 56-47.

Rees led LLA in scoring with 12 points including 2 three pointers. He also had 7 boards. Thomson finished with 10 points, 7 steals, 4 assists, 5 rebounds and 4 deflections. Both Chris Lawrence and Kieth Stewart managed to not foul out playing with 4 fouls for the final period and each finished with 5 boards. Justin Im quietly contributed his steady play with another 10 points.

Balagopalan finished with 22 points and Powers added 10 for Western (2-5, 0-2).

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