Cantwell Defeats Sierra Canyon to Earn Spot In Final Four

By Mario Villegas, Exclusive to EGP

It’s on to the state final four for Cantwell Sacred Heart of Mary High School in Montebello.

The Cardinals defeated top-seed Sierra Canyon, 62-54, Tuesday night in Chatsworth to advance to Saturday’s boys’ basketball Southern California Division IV championship game against second seed Bishop Montgomery at Colony High School in Ontario. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.

E.J. Mejia scored 15 points to lead Cantwell, which is 23-8, past Sierra Canyon (29-4) in Tuesday’s semifinal. The senior guard hit four 3-pointers and was one of four Cardinals to score in double figures.

Guard Joey Covarrubias leads the Cantwell Sacred Heart of Mary High School basketball team into Saturday’s CIF Southern California Division IV championship game. (EGP Photo by Mario Villegas)

Guard Joey Covarrubias leads the Cantwell Sacred Heart of Mary High School basketball team into Saturday’s CIF Southern California Division IV championship game. (EGP Photo by Mario Villegas)

“E.J. played a phenomenal game and Balsa Dragovic had probably his best game of the year,” Cantwell Coach George Zedan said. “Four of our five starters scored in double figures and the fifth, had nine points, so it really was a team effort.”

Dragovic, a 6-foot-10 junior forward, scored 11 points and had 10 rebounds, five blocked shots, three assists and two steals.

Senior guard Joey Covarrubias also had 11 points, converting seven of eight free throws, including four straight down the stretch to help secure the win. Junior post player Gligorije Rakocevic scored three baskets to start the second half and finished with 12 points. Andrew Martinez chipped in nine points.

“Sierra Canyon is a scary team and we have a lot of respect for them,” Zedan said. “Our players were excited about playing them, but we had to play at a certain pace and we managed to do that.”

The Cardinals avenged a 45-42 nonleague loss to Sierra Canyon earlier this season with Tuesday’s victory.

In the rematch, Cantwell took a 12-point lead into the fourth quarter and quickly increased it to 15 on a 3-pointer by Martinez to take its biggest lead of the game. Sierra Canyon rallied back, but the Cardinals answered with clutch free throw shooting to hold off the Trailblazers.

Besides Sierra Canyon, Cantwell, an at-large entry, also scored victories over Village Christian and Bakersfield Christian in the state playoffs. In the CIF Southern Section Open Division playoffs, the Cardinals lost in overtime to No. 1 Mater Dei. All eight of Cantwell’s losses have been to teams that played in the Open Divison.

Bishop Montgomery defeated Serra, 74-52, Tuesday to reach Saturday’s Southern California championship game. The Knights (26-6) had a first-round bye before defeating Oaks Christian in the quarterfinals.

“It’s going to be a contrasting style of basketball,” Zedan said in describing the matchup between the Cardinals and the Knights. “They have two standout guards and they share the ball really well as a team. It’s going to be another tough game, but all these games are tough at this point. Every team is here for a reason.”

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March 20, 2014  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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