Marty Graham 4:30 p.m., Feb. 24
Warriors hold off Longhorns for second time this season
CARLSBAD – Army-Navy has one of the most imposing frontcourts in the section, and on Tuesday night the Warriors were too big for visiting Rancho Buena Vista. Fifth-ranked Army-Navy raced out to an early lead and kept the Longhorns at a distance throughout the game for a 59-53 victory.
“We just had to play together and win the game,” said Army-Navy junior center Cheikh N’Diaye. “That’s all the coach cares about – to make the team start playing together.”
Army-Navy (13-3) jumped out to a 12-4 lead to start the game and led by 11 at the end of the first quarter. From the opening tip the Warriors frontcourt trio of 7-foot-1 N’Diaye, 6-foot-8 senior forward Jhoan Camacho, and 6-foot-6 inch junior forward Akhadj Diatta presented matchup problems for Rancho Buena Vista (7-11) and made it challenging for the Longhorns to score.
“It’s my area and I just say no one is going to score on me,” N’Diaye said about his role on defense. “That’s my first job when I play basketball – defense is the first thing I do. Offense is the second thing.”
Rancho Buena Vista stayed close in the second quarter, making it a one-point game with 1:20 left after an 8-0 run capped by consecutive threes from senior guard Nate Miles. Army-Navy scored the final five points of the quarter to lead 33-27 at halftime.
“The problem was offensive rebounds – we didn’t go for the rebounds,” N’Diaye said. “They have good shooters and they got a lot of second shots.”
Army-Navy quickly extended its lead to double digits in the third quarter, and the Warriors led by 11 headed into the fourth. Rancho Buena Vista came as close as seven points down the stretch, but Army-Navy held on to claim its second victory over the Longhorns this season.
“In our last game we played really together and as a team, but tonight we didn’t play that much as a team,” N’Diaye said. “We started but we didn’t finish it and they came back at the end.”
Diatta led Army-Navy with 19 points, and sophomore guard Devin Watson (15) and N’Diaye (13) also finished in double figures for the Warriors. Army-Navy begins Coastal League play at home on Friday seeking an elusive league crown.
“That’s the goal of the team – that’s all we want,” N’Diaye said. “I have missed that twice already and I don’t want to miss it this season.”
Army-Navy started the season with lofty expectations and hasn’t disappointed so far, even surviving a stretch without N’Diaye in the middle. Because the Warriors have only one senior on their roster, N’Diaye expects the team to improve as the season moves into league play and playoffs.
“We’re not like other teams that have played for three years together – we haven’t played together for a while but we work on it,” N’Diaye said. “We’re going to keep playing together and [focus on] the rest of the season. We can finish the season really well – we can be the best team in San Diego and be on top.”
Senior guard Anthony Alston led Rancho Buena Vista with 14 points. The Longhorns have lost five straight games and seven of their last eight.
Army-Navy – 59 (18-15-16-10)
Diatta 19, Watson 15, N’Diaye 13, Camacho 7, Nowakowski 3 (starters) Azubuike 2
Rancho Buena Vista – 53 (11-16-11-15)
Alston 14, Miles 12, Hernandez 10, Johnson 8, Smith 4 (starters) Morris 3, McIver 2
Pictured: Rancho Buena Vista guard Fabian Hernandez corrals a loose ball between Army-Navy center Cheikh N’Diaye (5) and guard Devin Watson (1)
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