The Capital Christian Cougars Boys Varsity Basketball team are off to a positive start on the 2013 season being 14-2 overall, 2-0 in league. On Saturday night the Cougars faced off against Freedom of Oakley - a highly regarded Division One team ranked 44 in California D1. The reigning D5 Sac-Joaquin Section Champions are ranked 517 nationally, 65th in California and 2nd in D5 in California. The Cougars are also ranked 5th in the SJS across all divisions.
Saturday night's game was a good matchup as Freedom is a similarly offensive-oriented team. Freedom scored first but the Cougars quickly ran out to a 9-4 lead largely due to the play of Sophomore Trey Belton who was agressive to the basket and strong on defense in the paint. Ably assisted by fellow post, Junior, Nifae Lealao, the two big men rebounded strongly and made their shots on offense. The referees on the night called a lot of fouls in order to keep some control of what quickly became a very physical match. The Cougars strength was definitely the muscle of Belton and Lealao under the basket where they dominated the paint and scored a number of points on putbacks and tip in baskets. Freedom were unable to penetrate the Cougar defense and often had to settle for outside or midrange jumpshots which were low percentage scoring opportunities. Freedom quickly racked up 8 team fouls and sent the Cougars to the charity stripe with more than 5 minutes left in the second quarter - a situation that the Cougars did not always take full advantage of. The Cougars took a 30-21 lead into the locker room at half time.
The Cougars got off to a slow start in the second half and Freedom took advantage with a 5-0 run to start the half. A goal tending call on a Freedom Defender gave Trey Belton a bucket and the Cougars steadied at 32-26. Belton scored again on a follow-up to put the Cougars up by 10. Tempers and play got very ragged at this point with more than the typical bumping and pushing going on. A timeout served to cool some hot heads and play resumed in a more seemly fashion. Freedom recovered their composure and capitalized on some Cougar turnovers pushing the score to 36-31 but a couple of misses by Freedom at the charity stripe and a 2 by Justice Shelton-Mosley at the buzzer saw the Cougars lead 39-31 going into the last quarter.
The final 8 minutes saw Freedom try a number of strategies to gain the upper hand going from a 2-3 zone to a man-to-man defense but the Cougars were resistant to all their strategies. New Head Coach Devon Jones is an accomplished coach and was more than a match strategy-wise for Freedom quickly making adjustments and substituting players as required to thwart the Freedom Falcons. Shooting percentages were down in the 4th quarter as both teams had their fair share of missed shots and the odd airball. Nifae Lealao steadied the ship with 2 important freethrows early in the 4th quarter giving the Cougars a 41-36 lead after Freedom had again started the quarter with a 5-0 run. Lealao again featured in the next score with a smart low dish pass to Nick Aibuedefe for the bucket and a 43-36 lead. Freedom missed their next shot and Lealao again scored. On the next play Lealao rebounded and engineered a UC Irogebu basket giving the cougars an 8-0 run of their own and a 47-36 lead with just 3.16 left in the game. That 8-0 run would prove to be the game winner. Freedom came out of a timeout and hit an NBA worthy 3 point shot but then fouled on the inbound play and sent Justice Shelton-Mosley to the line where he made both free shots. Belton made one last 2 before fouling out with a handsome 20 points and just under 2 minutes left in the game. Freedom threw everything they had at the Cougars down the stretch but big plays and even bigger rebounds and making free throws held the Cougars to the victory. The Cougars led 53-46 until the last seconds when a hallelujah 3 by Freedom found the bottom of the basket. Final score was 53-49.
Belton 20, Lealao 11, Irogebu 6, Jennings 6, Shelton-Mosley 6, Aiubedefe 4.
The Cougars resume league play in Dixon on Tuesday night and will then face Mesa Verde on Friday night. The Friday night showdown is likely to decide the Golden Empire League Leader as both Capital and Mesa Verde are unbeaten in league play at this point.