Wildcats defeat 5A champs

LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — By the time the Renaissance Academy boys' basketball team begins Harbor League play on Friday, most other squads will be over a third of the way through their league schedules.

But Wildcats Coach Sid Cooke doesn't mind the late start. It's giving his young team some extra time to find it's rhythm and it's been time well spent, as Renaissance will ride a seven-game win streak into league after beating Besant Hill on Tuesday night at home, 72-59.

"We don't want to stop winning," said Nick Troplant, who led the Wildcats (12-6) with 21 points, including 13 in the second half, where Renaissance pulled away. "We don't want to lose any of our league games [either]."

The Coyotes (4-8) are the defending champions of CIF Southern Section Division 5-A, in which the Wildcats are currently the sixth-ranked team, and handed Renaissance a 51-46 loss last season.

Although missing a couple of major pieces from their championship squad, the Coyotes still showed they could score quickly by taking a 9-3 lead over the first four minutes.

What Besant Hill could not seem to do very well was hold onto the basketball, as it committed 10 of its 22 turnovers in the first quarter to feed the Wildcats' fast break and allow Renaissance to go up, 19-10, on a Jasper Hwang three-pointer near the end of the period.

Led by 30 points and 11 rebounds from center Francois Tchoyi, Besant Hill clawed its way back to make it a one-point game by halftime, but Renaissance began to heat up once again from the field in the third quarter.

Troplant hit one of his four three-pointers with two minutes left to make it 46-40, Jessy Cantinol added a jump hook with 1:00 left and Eddie Burrows closed out the quarter with a steal and finished the break himself to give Renaissance a 50-42 lead going into the fourth period.

Burrows scored eight points to go with seven assists and six steals, while Cantinol finished with 18 points and four steals, while coming on late with nine fourth-quarter points.

"Jessy was sporadic, he met his match today [in Tchoyi]," Cooke said. "He got frustrated, but once he got patient he was a little better. Hopefully he can learn a lesson from this."

Troplant sank two more threes inside the first minute of the fourth quarter to push the Wildcats' lead to double-digits and they never led by fewer than eight the rest of the way.

"We tried to come with more intensity [in the second half]," Troplant said. "In the first half, I was off and in the second half I was doing better."

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