By Zach Cavanagh

AZUSA – For the first time in the 46-year history of Capistrano Valley Christian, the Eagles finally have a boys basketball championship.

The Eagles were imposing on defense and aggressive in the paint to build an early 15-2 lead and lead by as many as 19 points on their way to a 43-33 win over Palm Springs and the CIF-SS Division 3A Championship on Saturday afternoon at Azusa Pacific University.

“Man, our defense,” CVC coach Chris Childress said. “These guys were all over the place. Rebounding, the twins (seniors Riely and Blaine Petronis) did a heck of a job on the boards. Our group is tough, and they battled together. That stands out more than anything is how close this group is. They fought and rallied behind each other.”

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The Eagles (26-7) were playing in their first CIF-SS boys basketball final and won the first CIF-SS championship for the school since the 2014 baseball title. CVC advanced to the CIF-SS semifinals in 2015 and 2016 and lost in the second round each of the last two seasons.

“It means a lot to me,” senior Festus Ndumanya said. “I’m super happy and excited to win this first championship. I’ve been in this school for three years and this is my first championship. This feels super great.”

Riely Petronis led CVC with 15 points and added six rebounds. Junior Luke Powell scored nine points with a 3-pointer and six rebounds. Blaine Petronis scored seven points with six rebounds and two blocks. The Cal State Northridge-bound Ndumanya scored six points and collected a game-high 11 rebounds, two blocks and two steals.

“I knew I had to be aggressive because they’re a smaller team,” Petronis said. “I just wanted to get all of my baskets at the bucket. I didn’t want to take too many outside shots.”

The Petronis twins were two of four transfers in the CVC starting line-up with Ndumanya as the only returning starter from last season’s group. Riely and Blaine Petronis went from playing in the home school league to CIF-SS champions in their first season.

“It means a lot,” Blaine Petronis said. “How close this team was this year. It’s the closest team I’ve ever been on.”

Childress, in just his second year as head coach of the Eagles, preached the camaraderie in his group to charge to the CIF-SS title. Seven different players scored points in the game for the Eagles.

“To bring this group together,” Childress said, “without knowing each other and for them to come together and play like they did, it’s a true testament to them and how selfless they are.”

Capistrano Valley Christian finished second in the San Joaquin League this season. Childress called their league opener, a loss against eventual league champion Fairmont Prep, as the turning point for the Eagles’ season.

“We had a great start to the season and they were feeling good about themselves,” Childress said. “Then going to the Fairmont game, we struggled. After that Fairmont game, we won six in a row. Then our last loss against Pacifica Christian, we told ourselves we needed to win six in a row. That’s what we did.”

“After that (Fairmont Prep) game, we were able to get back to the basics and fundamentals of the game.”

The win over Palm Springs was indeed CVC’s sixth win in a row.

Palm Springs (26-6) was playing in their first CIF-SS championship game since 1983.

Capistrano Valley Christian established themselves early on both ends of the floor.

The Eagles employed a box-and-one defensive zone to limit Palm Springs to a one-for-11 shooting mark from the field in the first quarter and six-for-21 at halftime.

CVC got seven points from Powell in the first quarter and the team’s only 3-pointer for a 13-2 lead after the opening frame. The Petronis twins scored all of the Eagles’ 12 points in the second quarter for a 25-14 lead at halftime.

CVC pushed out to a 17-point lead after three quarters and led by as many as 19 points in the fourth quarter.

Capistrano Valley Christian now awaits the state playoff draw, which will be announced on Sunday.

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