By: Jake Anderson
Maranatha 2016/17 Varsity Basketball Team
Sean Espinosa: A transfer from a very successful La Salle team last year. A fantastic floor general, playmaker, good decision making, great 3 point shooter. The glue that holds this team together on both ends.
STATS: 12.3 ppg 4.0 asts/g 2.0 stls/g
Chris Austin: A stellar 6’4 small forward. Leading scorer, very athletic, good rebounder.
STATS: 17.3 ppg 5.3 rbs/g 1.6 stls/g
Jesse Elrod: A 6’8 center. A big presence in the paint, shot blocker, great rebounder, consistent mid-range jump shot.
STATS: 6.6 ppg 4.8 rebs/g 1.8 blks/g
Terrance Lang: A 6’6 power forward. Strong force on both ends of the court, moves really well for a big man, finishes really well in the paint, causes problems for other teams.
STATS: 7.8 ppg 4.6 rebs/g
I did not know what to expect going into this season. I saw some possible problems. Two freshmen were going to get a good amount of minutes against some of the best teams in California. Coach Tuck was going to need an offense and defense revolving around a smaller team. After a season with two 6’10 starters (Trevor Stanback & Odera Nwobi) Coach Tuck was going to adapt to a smaller, faster team. Along with those potential problems came the potential for greatness. The team had tremendous chemistry off the court which showed on the court. A smaller backcourt, Skyye De Catur and Sean Espinosa, could push the ball for a fast paced, up and down play style, while Terrance Lang and Jesse Elrod could dominate the paint on both ends.
Freshmen Marcus Reedy and Kham Cantrell would begin their 4-year varsity careers. Chris Austin (Jr), a future D1 player, finally had an a full season (after being injured last year) to make a name for himself. Mason Swinnie, Skyye De Catur, Josh Kim, Sean Espinosa, Jesse Elrod, and Terrance Lang, all had one more year to bring home Maranatha’s second CIF championship.
Two years ago, Maranatha, lead by Tyler Dorsey won their first CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) basketball championship against Aaron Holiday and Campbell Hall. From there, they would make it to the semi-finals of the Div. 4A California State Championship against Crespi, who would go on to win the State Championship that year.
All teams that have won a CIF championship in the last 2 years are included in 1A and 1AA CIF championships. With these circumstances, many people doubted what Maranatha, a division 4A school, could do. Against some of the top basketball teams in California, Maranatha was not expected to make it very far.
With that said here is a breakdown of the historic CIF run made this year:
MARANATHA V. VIEWPOINT
Maranatha cruised to a 70-43 victory over Viewpoint. Many will overlook this game but to me, this was a statement more than anything. This game proved that Maranatha was not going to back down from any team and that they were here to win this tournament. The Pasadena Star News wisely said, “as good as their team looked in a 70-43 win on Wednesday, it will need to be even better when they visit #2 seed St. Bosco,” and man was that ever true.
5 players in double-digit scoring
10 team steals
MARANATHA V. ST. JOHN BOSCO
Maranatha would again answer the bell in a close 66-63 OT victory over St. John Bosco. Bosco has established itself as a dominant force and being the #2 seed in the tournament many picked Bosco to take it all. Undeniably this was an underdog win for Maranatha but it really came down to grit at the end going into overtime with the game tied 57-57. Both teams would pick it up defensively in OT combine for a mere 15 points between both teams. Big free throws from Seniors Skyye De Catur and Terrance Lang would end up clinching the game.
Terrance Lang: 22 pts 8 rebs
Chris Austin: 18 pts 6 rebs
Sean Espinosa: 12 pts 8 asts
MARANATHA V. TAHQUITZ
Maranatha would continue the trend of nail-biting victories with a 56-55 victory over Tahquitz. Tahquitz finished 10-0 in their league and 24-5 overall, earning their spot in the 1AA division. This was Maranatha’s narrowest win, granted it can’t get any closer than one point. This game was highly competitive. Tahquitz had two star seniors, Azmar Sabb and Jordan Williams who did their part. Jordan Williams (21.2 ppg 5.2 ast/g 6.7 reb/g 3.4 stl/g) hauled in 15 points and 3 steals. The battle of the point guards would end up shaping this game. Sean Espinosa would win this battle. Controlling the pace and holding Jordan Williams to a 5-17 shooting night was very impressive. Azmar Sabb from Tahquitz had a career game, getting 20 points on 9-13 field goals. Terrance Lang would again prevail as Maranatha’s leading scorer. This close game would end up adding fuel to the fire, giving Maranatha a chance at making it the CIF Div. 1AA finals at home against Cantwell Sacred Heart.
Terrance Lang: 16 pts 11 rebs
Chris Austin: 14 pts 8 rebs
Sean Espinosa: 12 pts 8 asts
MARANATHA V. CANTWELL SACRED HEART
All the Twitter beef in the world couldn’t have prepared anyone for how big of a game this was going to be. Trash talk and memes flowed in on Twitter prior to the game. Late last year (December 2016) Maranatha lost to Cantwell decisively. Cantwell is a well-known participant in Coach Tuck’s annual Rose City Classic. Both teams have seen and played each other multiple times this year. Another good thing to note is that this was finally an opportunity for Maranatha to have a home game in these highly competitive playoffs.
With all that in mind this game was one of the best basketball games, I’ve seen. Maranatha pulled out yet another close game with a score of 52-50. Maranatha started out red hot. Cantwell struggled against the press, while Maranatha had 13 steals as a team. Down by 6 at the half, Cantwell began to rally and eventually take the lead late in the game. Two incredible up and unders from Sean Espinosa and Josh Kim ignited the team and the student section to a win. Clutch free throws from Jesse Elrod with a few seconds remaining would end up sealing the deal.
Chris Austin: 10 pts 4 asts 5 stls
Sean Espinosa: 11 pts 4 asts
Josh Kim: 7 pts 4 rebs 4 asts
MARANATHA V. RANCHO VERDE
The Div. 1AA CIF championship. Defying all odds, a 4A school made their way to the championship after of numerous close games. Unfortunately, the clock would strike midnight on this Cinderella story. Both teams would amp up their defense, at the end of the first quarter, Maranatha found themselves down 11-8. After going down 7 at one point early, the game would be close the whole way. With that said, Maranatha only had the lead once, and it was short lived. Toward the end of the game, it looked as if Maranatha would yet again prevail in a close one. Chris Austin would nail a deep three to put the Minutemen down 1. Rancho Verde would go 1-2 from the line, putting them up 2 with 3.2 seconds left and no timeouts left for Coach Tuck. A full court press from Rancho Verde would deny Sean Espinosa the ball and Chris Austin would fumble the ball in a double team, heave a shot from the opposite 3 point line… and miss it short.
Final score Rancho Verde 43, Maranatha 41.
Chris Austin: 16 pts 2 stls
Sean Espinosa: 11 pts 5 stls
One key factor for this playoff run was the battle of the points guards. Up until the championship game, Sean Espinosa was able to outsmart and outplay any opposing guard. In fact, Cantwell’s main weakness was a lack of a ball handler who could handle the press. Against Tahquitz, Sean held Jason Williams, someone who averages over 20 ppg, to 5-17 shooting. Timely 3 pointers, big steals, and an under control team was all key to the prior wins.
In the championship, Rancho Verde flipped the script. Damien Reedy poured in 21 points on 9-12 shooting (2-4 from beyond the arch), essentially half of Rancho Verde’s 43 points. Draining multiple 3’s, and going toe to toe with Espinosa really caused some problems. Espinosa would end up still having 11 pts, but on 4-11 shooting and no 3 pointers, with 2 assists. Beyond the PG battle, the game also came down to 3’s overall. Besides Chris’ last minute 3, Maranatha had no 3’s in comparison multiple coming from Rancho Verde, it is difficult to win that way.
Another factor was the referees. I hate to blame an entire game on the refs but there were some very questionable calls. A number of charges called in the game were unlike any game I had ever see. Terrance Lang ended up fouling out due to some controversial calls, in particularly the last call where he seemed to merely be standing in the paint and got charged for a foul. Much of this can be attributed to his size. At 6’7 250 refs tend to give the benefit of the doubt to the often smaller players guarding him. Most importantly though was the last out of bounds play. Rancho Verde had a sideline inbounds play. According to the rules of basketball, the inbounder cannot run or move while inbounding the ball. Anyone who has ever played or watched basketball knows this rule. The player clearly took multiple steps before calling a timeout but it only resulted in a warning. The reason for this was never explained, but I can’t imagine why that play would result in a warning instead of a turnover. I’m not going to blame the refs for the loss but those issues are definitely something to consider.
Overall, an amazing season for Maranatha basketball. Tying for first in a highly competitive Olympic League and getting to the finals of Div. 1AA as a 4A team is a huge milestone. In many ways, this is a greater accomplishment than the CIF championship 2 years ago. This year it was a full team effort. Everyone did their part and had their moments at different times. A true team effort was refreshing to watch and write about. A coach that knows how to put each and every player in position to succeed is something remarkable to watch.
I would like to thank Maxpreps and Pasadena Star News for providing stats, scores, and photos for this article.
And a special thank you to the Minutemen for yet another amazing season.