Boys Basketball: Spartans go down shooting in DV semifinals

Strathmore outscores Kennedy 16-6 in fourth quarter but can’t erase Kenney Thunderbirds’ 23-point third quarter lead

STRATHMORE – If not for the third quarter, the Strathmore Spartans would have played host to the Valley Title game Feb. 24. Instead, they spent the final quarter of their season trying to comeback from a 23-point deficit to the Kennedy Thunderbirds.

The Spartans ultimately fell 55-44 to the Thunderbirds in the semifinals of the Division V Central Section playoffs on Feb. 22.

““It’s not for lack of desire we just hesitated, especially in the third quarter,” Valdez said. “We weren’t making shots and we let that affect us,” Strathmore head coach Israel Valdez said. 

The first half of the game was extremely close as Kennedy was ready for whatever Strathmore threw at them. The Spartans got off to a slow start and needed a Kennedy technical foul to get their first points of the night but the first quarter ended with Kennedy only leading 9-8. The second quarter much like the first had the crowd on their toes. The Thunderbirds matched the Spartans basket for basket only faltering after they got into foul trouble giving Strathmore 2 points off free throws. Kenney ended the half with a thin 20-19 lead. 

“We analyzed their past games, and Coach Valdez, who does an awesome job with their defense and rebounding,” Kenney Head Coach Roden Leynys said.

The game was decided in the third quarter as the Thunderbirds outscored the Spartans 29-7 and took a commanding 49-26 lead into the final quarter.  

“In the playoffs, we’ve been playing great defense as a team and just believing in each other as a whole,” Leynys said. “Every game we overcame a close deficit, we won this game in the third quarter.”

Despite an off quarter, Strathmore fought hard to comeback from the 23-point deficit. Jaylen Oats led the team with a clutch 8 points to lead the Spartans, followed by three points each from Manuel Andrade and Aneas Ambriz. Robert Bojorquez added two points. Despite outscoring Kennedy 16-6 in the fourth quarter, Strathmore was unable to overcome the Thunderbirds’ 15-point and complete the comeback. The game ended 55-44. 

Valdez said the Spartans went out with heart but it was an especially hard loss for his four seniors. 

“I just want to thank them, it’s been an honor to coach them,” Valdez said. “I’m disappointed we can’t go on but we are committed to them for life.”

One of those seniors was team captain Gabe Bower who said he was proud of the way his team fought in the final minutes of their season.

“I’m very proud of how all the guys kept fighting to the end,” Strathmore team captain Gabe Brower said. “It was something really special to see and I’m very proud of all my teammates.” 

The Thunderbirds went on to lose the Valley Title game 60-40 to the Central Valley Christian Cavaliers on Feb. 24.

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