Los Angeles Cathedral's basketball team is in the middle of a grueling nine-day, four-game stretch that's unlike any other. The Phantoms' challenge involves facing the No. 2, No. 4, No. 7 and No. 10 teams in The Times' top 25 rankings.
They're coming close but haven't been able to get a breakthrough win. It started with a four-point loss to No. 2 Fairfax last week. On Friday night, they came back from a 22-point third-quarter deficit but fell to No. 4 Torrance Bishop Montgomery, 80-76.
Still to come are games Saturday at No. 10 Price and Monday against No. 7 Long Beach Poly at La Salle.
The good news is that the No. 8 Phantoms (12-3) are showing they can play with the best. Lucas Siewert, a 6-foot-10 junior, had 27 points against the Knights. Milan Acquaah, had 17 points. His three-pointer with 16.4 seconds left cut Bishop Montgomery's lead to 76-73. But the Phantoms couldn't get any closer.
"We dug too deep of a hole," Coach William Middlebrooks said.
In particular, Bishop Montgomery went to its standout guard, Stephen Thompson Jr., when the game tightened in the fourth quarter. Thompson, who has signed with Oregon State, scored 12 of his 20 points in the quarter. Christian Oshita led Bishop Montgomery (19-1) with 24 points. Ethan Thompson added 17 points.
The Phantoms could have helped themselves with better free-throw shooting. They were 18 for 32 from the line.
It was Cathedral's Del Rey League opener. The league has four teams — Cathedral, Bishop Montgomery, Gardena Serra and Montebello Cantwell-Sacred Heart — that were in the Open Division playoffs last season.
In other big games Friday, Santa Ana Mater Dei defeated Orange Lutheran, 70-51, in the Trinity League. Rex Plfueger scored 25 points. Westlake defeated Thousand Oaks, 61-52, in the Marmonte League.