Santa Monica, Calif. – For a team that struggled earlier during the season, the Crossroads Roadrunners (20-8) are definitely peaking at the right time. With an 84-64 win over the visiting Cajon Cowboys (24-7), the Roadrunners punched their ticket to the CIF Division 2AA championship game.
It’s the tenth consecutive win for the Roadrunners dating back to the regular season. Making the victory even more impressive was the fact that Cajon was on a winning streak themselves, having won 18 consecutive games with their last loss coming on Dec. 29.
“Me, my coaching staff, and our athletic director sat down and put this schedule together. We knew we were going to be rocky early, but it would set us up for what we’re doing later on in the season,” Crossroads head coach Anthony Davis said. “It’s actually working and we’re hitting our stride at the perfect time. I’m just excited for these kids because they really deserve it.”
Early on, the Cowboys looked every bit the team that had won 18 games in a row. They led Crossroads, 19-15 at the end of the first quarter, knocking down open perimeter jump-shots and crashing the glass creating second shot opportunities.
But midway through the second quarter, with the score tied at 21, the Roadrunners would go on a 9-1 run to take a 30-22 lead and never look back after that. They pushed their lead to double-digits, 42-28 by halftime.
“I told the kids it’s not going to be about x’s and o’s, it’s going to be a dogfight. That team was really good, really aggressive, we just had to match their energy,” Davis said. “Not only that but just be aggressive on offense. We can’t be tentative, we had to attack their team.”
Helping lead the way for Crossroads was senior guard D.J. Houston. On a night when his jumper wasn’t necessarily falling, Houston attacked the rim relentlessly and put pressure on the Cowboys defense. He hit a buzzer-beating floater right before halftime to give the team added momentum, and he finished with a team-high 28 points.
Shareef O’Neal added 26 including a highlight reel dunk.
“We watched film on them. They were really intimidating and ranked over us,” Houston said after the game. “We had a chip on our shoulder because we feel like we’re the better team in this whole division. We had to come in and play more aggressive to pull out the win.”
As the second half went on, Crossroads continued to impose their will, stretching their lead to 56-36 about midway through the third quarter. Cajon managed to briefly trim the lead to about 12 in the fourth quarter, but it was ultimately too late.
In the division championship, Crossroads will face a familiar foe, their Gold Coast League rivals the Brentwood Eagles. The Roadrunners have beaten the Eagles twice this season, but both games were close wins after falling behind by double-digits early.
“I wouldn’t want it any other way. I love Coach Moose Bailey, I love that two teams in our league are meeting in the championship, that says a lot about our league,” Davis said. “I’m excited, I can’t wait to play against Brentwood again. I know it’s going to be live, and that’s what the kids want.”
The rivalry between Crossroads and Brentwood goes back a long way. Each season, the two schools hold a tournament in both basketball and soccer called the Extravaganza. The winner of the tournament gets to hold on the championship cup for the entire year.
“It’s hate, I’m not gonna say love and hate, it’s hate. Their fans hate our fans,” Houston said. “The players, we’re friends off the court, enemies on, but when we’re on the court everyone is an enemy. We beat them in the Extravaganza, the biggest game of the year, we beat them at their home, we know they’re gonna play with a chip on their shoulder. We have stay with the game-plan, and I’m pretty sure we can come out with the victory.”