By Gerry Gittelson, Correspondent
LOS ANGELES – Village Christian High won a league championship in boys basketball for the first time in 17 years Tuesday with a 70-47 victory over visiting Maranatha to clinch the Olympic League title before a near-capacity crowd at Village Christian.
With a significant height advantage, combined with crisp fundamentals and all-out hustle, the Crusaders scored the first eight points while jumping to a quick 12-point lead after five minutes.
Village Christian, which last won a basketball title in 1995 in the Alpha League, steadily built a 20-point lead, and Maranatha never threatened.
“It feels great, especially to do this in my senior year,” Village Christian’s Marquis Salmon said.
Salmon scored 19 points, including a crowd-pleasing dunk on an alley-oop, and the 6-foot-7 forward also had seven rebounds and played smothering defense against standout guard Jeremy Major.
Major, who committed to Pepperdine two weeks ago, scored 27 points, but he managed to make just 6 of 22 shots, as the 5-9 junior had difficulty finding open looks against Salmon, who is almost a foot taller.
“It was hard, but it’s all right – I’ve played against bigger players before,” Major said. “It’s all good. This was a chance to up my game.”
Salmon and Major are friends off the court, and Salmon implored Village Christian coach Jon Shaw to let him guard Major.
“I told my coach I wanted the challenge,” Salmon said.
Village Christian has benefited from the summer arrival of top sophomores Marsalis Johnson and Bryan Alberts and impact junior Alex English from Alemany. Johnson scored 17 points with 11 rebounds and six blocks, and Alberts scored 15 points with seven assists, five steals and five rebounds.
“Those three have made a big impact,” Major said.
Maranatha (19-6, 6-2) shot 27 percent from the floor, including 3 of 23 on 3-pointers. The loss snapped a five-game winning streak.
Village Christian (23-2, 7-0), ranked No. 2 in the DivisionV-AA poll, has won 21 of its past 22 games.
Andrew Elffers had nine points for Maranatha. No one else scored more than four.