Sage Hill School senior Johnny King is used to playing basketball games at the American Sports Centers complex in Anaheim, but not necessarily on the high school level.
“It brings back a lot of memories,” King said. “A lot of the club tournaments are here.”
The Lightning and their 6-foot-10 center opened their boys’ season there Wednesday, because it is the home gym of Samueli Academy of Santa Ana.
Samueli Academy swarmed King to try to limit him inside, but that only left shooters open on the outside.
Sage Hill sophomore point guard Mitchell Frye scored a game-high 16 points as the Lightning eased to a 62-19 victory.
Lightning coach Billy Conlon said his team has each of its top five scorers back from last season, including King, who scored nine points Wednesday, and sophomore guard Cooper Green, who had seven points and a pair of three-pointers.
Frye, who played on the junior varsity last season, isn’t one of the top five returners but he impressed.
“I thought he was really good,” Conlon said. “He was our best player in the first half and got things going attacking the rim, getting the ball out on the break. He’s a really good player, a great athlete. He handles the ball well, sees the court well and has the ability to be one of our best defensive players.”
Sage Hill trailed after Samueli Academy’s Julian Fernandez made a three-pointer on his team’s first possession, but from there it was all Lightning. The visitors led 20-9 after the first quarter and scored 24 unanswered points in the second to take a 44-9 halftime advantage.
“I thought we were rather sloppy, which isn’t too unexpected given that it’s the first game of the season,” Conlon said. “We’re trying to integrate some players, some new systems. I was happy with the second quarter, and the rest of the game I thought we could have played a whole lot better. But first time out, it’s good to get a win.”
The game was played with a running clock starting late in the third quarter, when the Sage Hill lead reached 40 points. Senior forward Alex Desbans added 11 points for the Lightning, including a trio of three-pointers.
“I think we put up a big fight against [King] in the middle,” Samueli Academy coach Henry Peña said. “But yeah, Sage Hill is a pretty strong team. They have pretty good shooters on the outside … I think my defense lacked a lot on coming out to their shooters, but we’re getting there.”
King said the Lightning have winning the Academy League title this year as a goal, after finishing fourth a year ago. They are one of five teams in the league, along with rival St. Margaret’s, Claremont Webb, Calvary Chapel Downey and Rowland Heights Southlands Christian. Last year’s league champion, Crean Lutheran, left for the Empire League.
Sage Hill went 10-17 last season, advancing to the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 4A playoffs before losing at No. 2-seeded San Pedro Mary Star of the Sea.
“Last year, we were a team that had lost 11 seniors the year before,” said Conlon, whose team plays at San Juan Hills in a nonleague game on Friday at 7 p.m. “We definitely had our ups and downs and were not consistent enough … This group played together last year and has certainly grown over the past calendar year. I think that certainly will help us, especially game to game bringing that consistency.”
Sage Hill 62, Samueli Academy 19
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Sage Hill 20 – 24 – 11 – 7 — 62
Samueli Academy 9 – 0 – 7 – 3 — 19
SH – Frye 16, Desbans 11, King 9, Green 7, Lin 6, Strohman 6, Hosseinzadeh 2, Martin 2, Ha 2, Bryant 1.
3-pt. goals – Desbans 3, Green 2, Frye 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
SA – Mandiola 5, Ith 5, Fernandez 3, Martinez 3, Nestor 2, S. Rodriguez 1.
3-pt. goals – Fernandez 1, Martinez 1.
Fouled out – None.