On most occasions, Faith Lutheran boys basketball coach Bret Walter wouldn’t like his team’s chances to win giving up 27 points to Sierra Vista’s Maka Ellis.
But Walter didn’t seem to mind Friday night.
“Maka had to earn everything he got,” Walter said.
Faith Lutheran held the visiting Mountain Lions to 27 percent shooting from the field in the final three quarters and got 17 points and seven rebounds from Elijah Kothe in a 68-55 victory.
Zach Friel added 15 points and 10 rebounds as the Crusaders (11-3, 4-0 Sunset League) kept pace with Clark atop the league standings.
“We were just really proud of the defensive effort,” Walter said. “We felt like our guys picked it up defensively after the first quarter, and we really felt like that was the difference in the game. It created some transition points and we got some easy baskets, and that always gets you going a little bit.”
Ellis, who missed the past three games after suffering an ankle injury Dec. 30, finished 4-for-15 from the field and missed seven shots in a row during one stretch as Kothe and Gary Tharaldson combined to hold the 6-foot-4-inch sophomore in check.
Ellis made 16 of 20 free throws as the Mountain Lions (6-11, 4-2) went 23-for-29 from the line.
“We have a couple of defensive players, but Maka’s a little bigger, so we decided to give Elijah a shot and he did a nice job throughout the course of the game,” Walter said. “He’s their guy. He’s going to get some of his, and you also have to stop the other guys and rebound the ball well.”
The Mountain Lions led 20-17 after the first quarter, but made eight of their 30 field-goal attempts the rest of the way and shot 32.5 percent (13 of 40) overall. Sierra Vista also was outrebounded 39-22.
Blake Bell had 14 points, five assists and three steals, and Jaylen Fox contributed 13 points, five rebounds and five assists for Faith Lutheran, which went ahead 39-29 on its first possession of the third quarter and led by double digits the rest of the way.
“To have four players in double figures, that shows really a team effort,” Walter said. “We don’t have one guy. We have multiple guys. We thought our guards played really well.”
Faith Lutheran opened the second quarter on a 16-3 run and took a 37-29 halftime lead. Sierra Vista climbed as close as 59-48 midway through the fourth quarter on Chris McCoy’s steal and layup, but the Crusaders answered with a 7-0 burst to push the lead to 17 points.
“If you just looked at the standings, now everybody has two losses but us and Clark, so this was a big game for us,” Walter said. “Every game in league is big for us.”
Contact reporter David Schoen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ