GARDENA — In the spirit of friendly competition, Vince De Guzman and Nick Troplent fire a series of three-pointers each practice to see who could bury the most.
The winner gets bragging rights, of course, but not much else.
With the stakes slightly higher Saturday in the Serra Cavalier Showcase, the Renaissance Academy boys’ basketball co-captains put on a brilliant shooting display, draining a combined five three-pointers in the third quarter in a 65-42 rout of Cantwell Sacred Heart.
The Wildcats (17-2) went on a tear in the third period, outscoring the Cardinals, 26-2.
Struggling in the opening half, yet trailing only by four, Renaissance Academy received a huge lift from the duo.
Troplent scored the first 11 points to start the second half, including three consecutive three-pointers. De Guzman found the 6-foot-2 shooting guard on each of those triples, giving the Wildcats a 32-25 lead.
After a timeout, Troplent batted away an entry pass and Troy Fontanilla dished it to De Guzman behind the arc. That three, in particular, sparked a suffocating full-court press by Renaissance Academy, which kept the Cardinals scoreless that quarter until the 52.7-second mark.
Again, Fontanilla found a wide-open De Guzman, who nailed his fourth three-pointer. The next time down, Jessy Cantinol fed Fontanilla for a three.
Renaissance Academy converted six of eight from long distance in the third quarter for a 47-27 cushion.
“We looked pretty good there,” said De Guzman, who notched a team-high 16 points and six assists. “Coaches got on us [at halftime]; They wanted us to pick it up. Cantwell played a good first half, they shut us down. But we just had to pull our heads out of our butts.”
Troplent added 13 points (all coming in the second half), four rebounds and two steals.
“We came out hyped, and just got on it,” Troplent said. “Vince and I have been playing together a long time, so he knew where to find me.”
Along with the barrage of three-pointers — the Wildcats totaled 10 — Renaissance Academy tightened its transition defense in the second half.
At the break, Jose Estrada raced out to 16 points, including 10 in the second quarter. After forcing the junior guard to drive his left, the Wildcats slowed Cantwell’s primary scoring threat.
Estrada scored only two points in the second half, but finished with a game-high 18.
“We had a couple stints where we didn’t get back on defense. We were sprinting a couple times and we gave them easy layups,” Renaissance Academy Coach Sid Cooke said. “In the second half, we just told our guys, ‘You have to push harder and get back on defense. Defense is going to win the game.’
“And it just took heart to win the game.”
The Wildcats also had to adjust to playing with a hobbled Jessy Cantinol. The 6-foot-5 senior power forward woke up with a sore back, but still played.
He still continued to draw a double-team each time he touched the ball and finished with six points.
“We knew he didn’t have his energy, so we told the guys they have to pick it up,” Cooke said. “We expect teams to double him sooner or later, so we have our guys ready on the perimeter.”
Renaissance Academy, ranked No. 1 in the latest CIF Southern Section Division VI poll, opens Harbor League play Thursday at Price, which is ranked fifth in Division IV-AA.
“It’s a good win for us,” said Cooke, whose team won its 15th straight game. “We have a rough schedule coming up, but we’ll see how we do.”
Cantwell, No. 2 in Division IV-A, dropped to 18-3.