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Saddleback Valley Christian sophomore guard Josh Cruthfield scans the floor during practice. Photo: Steve Breazeale
Saddleback Valley Christian sophomore guard Josh Cruthfield scans the floor during practice. Photo: Steve Breazeale

By Steve Breazeale

Last Season: The Warriors won the San Joaquin League and advanced to the finals of the CIF-SS Division 5AA playoffs and the semifinals of the CIF Division 5 State Regional tournament.

Players to Watch: Eric Rwahwire, Reese Bearden, Irshaad Hunte and Phil Edwards.

Circle ‘em: An appearance in the Open Division at the Maxpreps Holiday Classic (12/26-30) and a road game against Inglewood (1/5). League games against Capistrano Valley Christian (1/23, 1/30) and Orangewood Academy (1/27, 2/5).

Outlook:

The Saddleback Valley Christian boys basketball team has all the pieces in place for another deep postseason run.

In 2013, the Warriors went 27-7 overall and breezed through the San Joaquin League with a perfect 10-0 record. They didn’t stop there. Saddleback Valley Christian reached the championship game in the CIF-SS Division 5AA Championships and the semifinals of the CIF Division 5 State Regional tournament. It was the best season in program history.

With four starters from last year’s squad returning, and a few key transfers joining their ranks, head coach Tom Lewis believes this team has the ability to be the best he’s coached yet.

They certainly have the depth on paper to match that statement.

The Warriors return standout senior guard Eric Rwahwire, who recently committed to UC Riverside. Rwahwire, who is 6-feet-5-inches tall, has the ability to run the court, shoot from the perimeter and post up smaller guards, giving the Warriors a distinct matchup advantage.

Senior point guard Reese Bearden, the team’s MVP from last year, returns to run the offense.

One of Saddleback Valley Christian’s strengths lies in the size of their physical frontcourt, which is made up of returning junior forward Irshaad Hunte and Bishop Montgomery transfer Anthony Langston. Both Irshaad and Langston are listed at 6-8. Hunte has around 20 collegiate offers, Lewis said. Because of his size and athleticism, Rwahwire can also get involved down low with the Warriors’ big men at any given time.

The Warriors’ trump card, according to Lewis, is the experience they gained last year as a unit that made a deep postseason run and played a difficult nonleague schedule.

“This is the deepest team, top to bottom, and the most talented, that I’ve had. They’re big, athletic and they have experience,” Lewis said.

Saddleback Valley Christian enters the season as the No.1 ranked team in CIF-SS Division 5AA.

The team’s schedule is a daunting one. They will play in the high-profile Diablo Inferno Tournament at Mission Viejo High School to open the season and follow it up with an appearance in the Maxpreps Holiday Classic. When Lewis heard there was a vacant spot left in the Maxpreps Holiday Classic’s Open Division, he jumped at the opportunity to get his team in the mix with 16 other elite teams from across the country. They open that tournament with a game against Alemany, the third-ranked team in CIF-SS Division 1A.

“Every night (this season) they’re going to be tested. They have to play the best to become the best. (The schedule) is a great opportunity for the kids,” Lewis said.

Season Schedule

Date                Opponent                                Location, Time

12/1-6               Diablo Inferno Tourn.              Mission Viejo, TBA

12/9-10             Spartan Classic Tourn.             TBA, TBA

12/22                 Edison                                         El Toro, 7:30 p.m.

12/26                 Max Preps Holiday Classic     TBA, TBA

1/5                      Inglewood                                  IHS, 7 p.m.

1/7                      Arrowhead Christian               SVC, 7:30 p.m.

1/10                    George Washington Prep       TBA, TBA

1/17                    Santa Clarita Christian            TBA, TBA

1/19                    Bullard                                        TBA, TBA

1/23*                 Capistrano Valley Christian    CVCS, 7:30 p.m.

1/24                   Valley Christian                         LCHS, 9 p.m.

1/27*                 Orangewood Academy              OAHS, 7:30 p.m.

1/30*                 Capistrano Valley Christian     SVC, 7:30 p.m.

2/3*                   Fairmont Prep                            SVC, 7:30 p.m.

2/5*                   Orangewood Academy              SVC, 7:30 p.m.

2/7                     Chadwick                                     SVC, 12:30 p.m.

2/11*                 Fairmont Prep                             FPHS, 6 p.m.

*–denotes league game

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