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Coronado boys’ pressure defense keys fast start in rout of Foothill

Coronado boys basketball coach Jeff Kaufman has seen Foothill jump out to huge leads early in games. Last season, the Falcons took a 20-point halftime lead against Coronado.

His team made sure that wouldn’t happen Friday night.

The Cougars scored the game’s first 15 points and never let Foothill back into the game on the way to a 58-37 road win.

“Foothill is notorious for big first halves,” Kaufman said. “Our goal was to come out and not let them get into rhythm, not let them have a player to feed off of. And that’s what we did.”

The Cougars (13-5, 4-0 Southeast League) forced six turnovers during the opening run, and Foothill (11-6, 3-1) missed its first six shots.

“We came out aggressive, we came out trying to steal the basketball and our big guys trying to get a hand on the ball,” Kaufman said. “We thought that pressure was the key to the game.”

The Falcons turned the ball over 25 times, including eight in the first quarter, leading to 20 Coronado points.

Cougars leading scorer Austin Nelson was 3-for-16 from the field, but senior forward Jared Culbert picked up the slack with 16 points, 11 rebounds, six steals and three assists to lead Coronado.

“He’s been unbelievable for us,” Kaufman said of the 6-foot-4-inch Culbert, who didn’t play last season.

Culbert was often matched against one of Foothill’s smaller guards and took advantage in the post.

“We knew we had mismatches,” Kaufman said. “That’s the way we want to play this year. We have three very solid post players. They’re not huge, but they play bigger than they are.”

Adam Schmitt added 13 points and 11 rebounds for Coronado.

The Cougars did a good job against Foothill’s leading scorers, Greg Cox and Brannon Cresanto, who totaled nine points.

Cresanto’s playing time was limited somewhat because of an ankle injury suffered over the holiday break, and he was 2-for-6 from the field. Cox was 1-for-13, including 0-for-7 on 3-pointers.

Foothill made just 13 of 51 field goals.

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