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SUNSET BOYS BASKETBALL: Faith Lutheran claws past Maka Ellis, Sierra Vista

Play was halted for a couple of minutes Tuesday while the athletic trainer treated a six-inch scratch on Maka Ellis’s left arm.

With the way Faith Lutheran blanketed the Sierra Vista junior, it’s safe to guess that more than one Crusader came away with Ellis’ skin under their fingernails.

Ellis finished with 25 points, but the Crusaders made him work for every one as they topped the visiting Mountain Lions 79-70 in the Class 4A Sunset Region boys quarterfinals.

“You have to game plan. He’s a very good player, especially in transition,” Faith Lutheran coach Bret Walter said. “He’s best when he has the ball coming up the floor, so we were trying to contain that, which we did.”

Faith Lutheran (17-9) plays Bishop Gorman (18-9) in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Thursday at Shadow Ridge.

Ellis was 2-for-14 from the field and had only eight points through three quarters as Faith Lutheran took a 57-45 lead.

“He’s a really good player,” said Faith Lutheran guard Jaylen Fox, who drew the assignment on Ellis for a good portion of the game. “He’s going to score a couple, but you’ve just got to try to contain him and hope for the best.”

The Crusaders switched at least four defenders on Ellis and played both man-to-man and box-and-one against him.

“Jaylen did a fantastic job defensively for us on him,” Walter said. “And I was probably most proud of that in the game. He really stepped up defensively and played him, which gives us the ability to wear him down a little bit. And he has to continue to work hard, and we have other guys that play him.”

Fox also had the first two baskets of the second half to spark a 14-4 run that gave the Crusaders the lead for good. Fox finished with 19 points.

“Jaylen really gave us a spark defensively, but then he hit a couple shots to start he second half, and that helped us a lot,” Walter said.

Faith Lutheran’s leading scorer, Nic Maccioni, struggled early and didn’t have a field goal in the first half. But like Ellis, Maccioni heated up in the second half and finished with 23 points and six rebounds.

“He struggled, but they’re trying to stop him like we’re trying to stop Maka,” Walter said. “And they were physical. He didn’t catch the ball in good spots in the first half.”

Brevin Walter scored 15 of his 22 points in the first half for the Crusaders, and teammate Elijah Kothe had 16 rebounds.

Ellis was 6-for-8 from the field in the fourth quarter, scoring 17 points to keep the Mountain Lions (13-14) in the game. Ellis also had a team-high seven rebounds.

Maui SeraJosef added 21 points and six rebounds for Sierra Vista.

“It feels really good just to get back out here in the playoffs and beat a good team,” Fox said. “They’re a really good team. It just feels great to get a ‘W.’”

Centennial 89, Durango 72 — At Centennial, Troy Brown had 21 points and 17 rebounds to power the Bulldogs over the Trailblazers in a Sunset Region quarterfinal.

Isaiah Banks led the Bulldogs (23-4) with 22 points, and teammate Ishon Hardin scored 19. Centennial’s Darian Scott had 13 points and 12 rebounds.

Demetrius Valdez led all scorers with 27 points for the Trailblazers (10-12). Anthony Hunter had 12 points for Durango, and Nicquel Blake scored 10.

Centennial will play Clark (24-3) at 5 p.m. Thursday at Shadow Ridge.

Bishop Gorman 96, Palo Verde 72 — At Gorman, Noah Taitz scored 15 points, and Christian Popoola added 14 points and 10 assists as the Gaels stormed past the Panthers in a Sunset Region quarterfinal.

Chuck O’Bannon added 11 points and eight rebounds for Gorman, which steamrolled to a 59-34 halftime lead.

Palo Verde’s Cole Hendershot led all scorers with 26 points, and teammate James Camp scored 15 for the Panthers (10-16).

Clark 67, Cimarron-Memorial 50 — At Clark, Jalen Hill and Ian Alexander each scored 16 points, and the Chargers went 18-for-25 from the free-throw line in the win over the Spartans.

Trey Woodbury added 15 points, and James Bridges scored 14 for Clark, which outscored Cimarron 26-16 in the fourth quarter.

Antwon Jackson added 12 rebounds for the Chargers.

Demarco Alexander led Cimarron with 15 points, and teammate Brian Washington scored 10.

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