Defending state champ CLA rolls to 52-32 win

Defense wins championships and top-seeded Christian Life Academy continued to excel at that phase in the postseason.

Christian Life held Houma Christian to three second-quarter points and six points in the fourth quarter. Led by Johnathan Stove’s 22 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, Christian Life dominated No. 8 Houma Christian 52-32 Tuesday night in a Class 1A quarterfinal boys basketball playoff game at CLA.

Christian Life advances to a semifinal game against No. 4 Metairie Park Country Day this weekend in Hammond.

Houma Christian (19-10) came in averaging 82.5 points in the playoffs. Christian Life (27-5) held its second playoff opponent to 36 or fewer points and has won its three playoff games by an average of 21 points.

Christian Life’s offense was clicking and produced 18 layups against Houma Christian’s 2-3 zone defense. The layups came off passes from the baseline, inbounds passes from under the goal by Malik Harrison, follow shots and dribble-drive penetration.

“We executed extremely well tonight,” CLA coach Mark Cascio said. “The first quarter was back and forth. We really settled in in the second quarter, and our defense was phenomenal. Our defense allowed us to get out and run and score some easy baskets.

“I’m so happy for these guys. They’re a great group and have fun together. All of our goals are still within reach. We’re looking forward to the next round.”

CLA has won five of the past seven state championships, including 2012. The Crusaders are on a 12-game winning streak.

R.J. Hertzog, a 6-foot-3 junior, added 13 points and nine rebounds for the Crusaders. Tim Holland contributed eight points and Harrison five. Hertzog made CLA’s lone free throw attempt. Stove, a 6-4 junior, hit 11 field goals, with10 coming within 6 feet of the basket.

“Our team philosophy is to go out and play hard every game,” Hertzog said. “We’re very unselfish. We spread the ball around and gave everybody a chance to score. That’s what makes us so good. We’re a small team, and we put a lot of effort into rebounding.”

Houma Christian twice led in the opening quarter. Guy Campbell hit a 3-pointer to put the Warriors up for the final time at 8-6. Hertzog followed with a three-point play and Holland hit a layup off a Harrison assist as CLA led 11-8 after one quarter. Hertzog had four points as CLA had a 6-0 surge to start the second quarter. Campbell hit a 3-pointer as the visitors pulled within 17-11.

CLA put the game away with a 9-2 run to open the third quarter. Harrison hit a 3-pointer and Stove made three inside baskets in the run.

Houma Christian abandoned its zone in the fourth quarter for a man-to-man defense, but by that time it was too late.

Campbell and Nate Frye scored eight points each for the Warriors.