PALMDALE — The shooting woes for The Palmdale Aerospace Academy boys basketball team continued and they came at the most inopportune time.
The Griffins had only one league loss entering their game against Valley Torah, which entered the game atop the Heritage League standings with Santa Clarita Christian, both with undefeated records.
TPAA hung tough until the final couple of minutes of the game when the Wolfpack pulled away and left the Griffins’ gymnasium with a 50-40 victory, Tuesday night.
“We played hard and we competed, but a couple of my main shooters have been struggling for the past four or five games,” Griffins head coach Keith Bennett said. “We shot the ball poorly tonight. We kept the game competitive, but when you only score 40 points you’re not going to beat a solid team.”
Valley Torah (15-4, 6-0) was clinging to a 38-34 lead entering the fourth quarter. It seemed as if each time TPAA would get within a bucket or two, the Wolfpack would score three or four buckets of its own to extend the lead.
The Griffins trimmed the lead to 41-38 with 5:20 remaining. On Valley Torah’s ensuing possession, however, it used the back door Princeton offense to catch TPAA off guard for an easy layup to extend its lead to 43-38. The Wolfpack used that play to perfection at least four times in the second half against the Griffins’ defense.
“We had our chances. We don’t have a big margin for error and you can’t shoot something like 20 percent like we did tonight,” Bennett said. “I think we had way too many turnovers, something like 20. But we battled as much as we could.”
It’s been a topsy turvy past couple of weeks for TPAA (9-11, 4-2). Over the Christmas break the Griffins were without many of their players due to vacation, including last week’s AV High New Year’s Tournament which has hurt them. They still didn’t have a full roster as of Tuesday night.
Following a missed shot by the Griffins, the Wolfpack took advantage and extended its lead to 45-38, then 47-38 following a turnover, its largest lead of the game at the time.
C.J. Tisdale made an off-balance shot to cut the lead to 47-40 and TPAA had its chance to carve into the lead even more following a turnover by Valley Torah, but Eric Alford missed a 3-pointer to deny any rally.
“We could have come out more aggressive, offensively and defensively. They played smarter than we did,” said Alford. “This was a big game for us and our chemistry has been off. We weren’t talking on defense. They were killing us on the inside.”
The undersized Griffins had no answer for Valley Torah’s Akiva Kamornick, who finished with a game-high 21 points. The Wolfpack used an effective high-low offense, giving Kamornick several easy shots underneath the basket.
The Wolfpack’s Yosee Krietenberg scored six consecutive points to help build his team’s lead to 38-30 late in the third quarter. Isaiah Enyard netted a 3-pointer in the corner as the clock hit zero to end the third quarter and cut Valley Torah’s lead to 38-34 entering the final eight minutes.
“Our offense felt rushed and we had a couple of errors on defense that cost us the game. We gave up way too many post shots and rebounds,” said the Griffins’ Brian Andrews. “We took a lot of quick shots and at times we were throwing up whatever. We needed this win. It’s very disappointing because we’re both top three teams in the league and we’re trying to stay near the top.”
Andrews led his team with 19 points, 13 coming in the first half and his three 3-pointers helped TPAA remain close in the first two quarters.
The Wolfpack has yet to play the Heritage League elite, Santa Clarita Christian. Should it lose to the Cardinals, and the Griffins win out, second place could come down to Jan. 26 when the two teams meet again at Valley Torah High School.