July 18, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: Defensive adjustment works for Crean Lutheran in 63-38 win over Valencia

Crean Lutheran 5-11 guard Drew Yezbak and 6-11 forward James Agany led the Saints to a key Empire League victory. (Photo Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone)

Crean Lutheran’s boys basketball team made some defensive adjustments in the second half against Valencia and it paid off in a big way.

To see the slide show, please click on the first photo

The Saints captured a 63-38 Empire League victory Friday night at Crean Lutheran to improve their record to 11-8 overall and 3-1 in league play.

The Saints led 28-22 at halftime and then outscored Valencia 17-4 in the third quarter to break the game open.

“It was about defensive intensity and knowing the scouting report,” said Crean Lutheran Coach Nate Klitzing. “Early, (Michael) Paalacios got going and hit three or four three’s in a row. We weren’t locked into him close enough.”

Palacios scored the first 12 points of the game for Valencia, all on 3-pointers. but Crean Lutheran got tough on him up after that.

“We were able to string together some stops and then started to get out in transition and get some easy buckets,” Klitzing said.

Senior guard Drew Yezbak continued his steady play, scoring 13 points to lead the Saints, who are one game back of league leading Cypress.

“He’s our leader on and off the floor, our captain, and we need his ball handling but we also need his scoring,” Klitzing said. “He does a little bit of everything for us.”

Crean Lutheran also got a big game from 6-11 sophomore transfer James Agany, who was a defensive force. He had three blocked shots and 10 rebounds and an electrying dunk early in the third quarter for his only points of the game that brought the Saints fans to their feet.

“James is coming along, this is only his second game back coming off a fracture in his lower leg (in a game early in the season) so he’s been playing most of the season hobbled,” Klitzing said. “He’s starting to get healthy and really taking some huge strides forward. He bring another dynamic to our team because we have an interior presence that not a lot of teams have and he’s coming along in his offensive ability as well.”

Agany got cheers and support from the students all night.

“He is from South Sudan and he was at a high school in North Carolina prior,” Klitzing said. “That closed down and we’re happy to have him.”

Michael Birket and Josh Shin added 10 points each for Crean Lutheran, which teamed up with a solid second half effort led by Yezbak.

“We played a lot harder in the second half,” Yezbak said. “We moved the ball and we had a good game. My teammates have been getting me involved. My coach has been running plays, getting me in the right position and the team is helping me.”

Palacios wound up with 16 points to lead Valencia (16-6, 2-2). Isaiah Arthurton added 10 points for the Tigers.

-Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com