BURBANK — As it’s been for most of this early season, the Renaissance Academy boys’ basketball team was just too much for its opposition to handle when the Wildcats traveled to Bellarmine-Jefferson Tuesday.
The Guards were able to hold the Wildcats’ deep roster in check in the first half, but Renaissance inevitably got going in the second half and walked out of the gym with a 68-41 victory.
Balance was the name of the game for Renaissance (4-1) Tuesday, as four Wildcats finished the game with 10 points or more.
“We are just trying to get everybody playing,” Renaissance Coach Sid Cooke said. “We want to rotate nine or 10 in and we were trying to get that here. We are getting better. We have a lot of young guys and we want to rotate them in. We are going to need them.”
Freshman guard Kevin Dinges led the way for Renaissance with a game-high 14 points. Vince De Guzman racked up 12, Jessy Cantinol had 11 and Troy Fontanilla added 10 of his own for the Wildcats.
“Their firepower was a little too much for us,” Bell-Jeff Coach Julian Andrade said. "[Renaissance] is going to win their CIF Division title.”
Bell-Jeff (1-4) wasn’t going to go away easy, though.
Renaissance jumped out to a 6-0 lead to start the game, but saw its lead evaporate as the Guards slashed their deficit to one, 11-10, at the end of the first quarter.
Will Morales and Jalen Henry both had four points in the first quarter for Bell-Jeff, ranked 14th in CIF Southern Section Division V-A. Henry finished with a team-high 12 points and eight rebounds.
“Our game plan was to contain them defensively and keep them in front,” Andrade said. “I thought we did well in the first quarter, but they just have too much and we are so inexperienced.”
Turnovers were Bell Jeff’s Achilles’ heel in the game. The Guards committed 19 in the game and five in the second quarter.
The Wildcats, No. 5 in Division V-A, widened the margin to 33-22 at halftime, behind six points from Fontanilla and five from Dinges in the second quarter.
“I just wanted to contribute and give whatever I can to the game,” said Dinges, who also had six rebounds and two steals.
It only got worse from there on out from the Guards, as Renaissance’s Gerrick Uneau capped off an 18-8 run in the third quarter with a slam dunk just before the whistle blew to signal the end of the third. Renaissance carried a 51-30 edge into the fourth quarter, as Cantinol, who also had nine rebounds, put up five points in the third.
Dinges helped the Wildcats increase their margin to 68-41 with seven points in the final quarter.
“In the beginning, we were just a little slow,” Dinges said. “Once everyone came in off the bench it seemed like we exploded.”
Cooke said it just took his team some time to settle into the game.
“We were either not getting to our assignments or gambling,” said Cooke, explaining the first-quarter struggles. “Once we stayed at home and made them make extra passes, we were able to get them out of their offense.”
Despite the scoreboard, Andrade saw plenty of positives to take away from the game.
“Even though the score didn’t show it, to me [the game] was a positive,” Andrade said. “We have a lot of new players trying to gel together. We just need to take care of the basketball a little bit better.”