Cats get set for semis

To say the Renaissance Academy basketball team has encountered minimal resistance on its surge through the CIF Southern Section Division 6 playoffs might still be an understatement.

The top-seeded Wildcats' greatest challenge in blowout wins over St. Monica Academy, Bethel Christian and Arshag Dickranian — games in which their average margin of victory has been a laughable 64 points — has been staying focused and engaged.

That looks to be about to change, however, when the Wildcats meet host L.A. Adventist Academy at 7 p.m. on Saturday in the semifinals. The fourth-seeded Eagles would appear to have the size, depth and skill level to at least give Renaissance (22-6) pause on its quest to make the CIF finals for the first time since 2007.

"If you look at their roster, they're all athletes," Renaissance Coach Sid Cooke said of Adventist (16-8), which placed second in the Mulholland League before advancing to the semis with wins over Westmark, Le Lycee and Joshua Springs. "We've got film on them and they play hard at their gym and they're athletic and long.

"This is different than what we've been playing the first couple of rounds. This is a bigger, stronger, faster team."

Adventist's rugged front line includes three players 6-foot-4 or taller in senior center Steven Stewart (6-4), senior post Dalvion Stephens (6-5) and sophomore wing Kenyatta Louder, as well as the big body of 6-3, 235-pound senior forward Garon Featherston.

The Wildcats counter with some size of their own with 6-5, 240-pound senior Jessy Cantinol in the middle and 6-6 forward Gerrick Uneau, as well as 6-5 wing Yendra Magloire, who recently returned to the team after an ankle injury. But Cooke said the Wildcats, who finished third in the Harbor League gold division, will be better served drawing on their brains rather than brawn when matching up with the Eagles.

"We have to play hard, play smart," said Cooke, who will also rely on the speed and play making abilities of guards Vince De Guzman, Troy Fontanilla and Nick Troplent. "I think we have to use our angles as far as passing and cutting.

"We've played bigger teams like Village [Christian] and Price and we had opportunities in those games There's got to be lot of interior passing and [we've got to be] just real precise in what we're doing."

The two teams have one common opponent, Arshag Dickranian, which is in the Mulholland League. The Eagles split a two-game home and away series by identical 63-53 scores.

Cooke said the Wildcats have played, and beaten, enough strong competition this season to be ready for anything the playoffs bring, even if the first three rounds have failed to challenge them.

"This team has been together for a long time and they'll go compete, so that's what it's about," Cooke said. "Hopefully, all the preparation pays off."

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