- The Enterprise
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Grace Christian boys basketball team photographer Holloway Saunders had plenty of photos to give out after the squad's victory over Seed Academy of Washington, D.C., in the first round of Maryland Independent Schools Athletic League on Tuesday evening.
Saunders, the father of co-captain Preston Saunders, even had one for head coach Brian Deschaine that made him chuckle.
Grace won the contest, 51-34, to the semifinals.
The resounding theme for the team is defense, where it focused most of its energy and defense to enable the tight-knit group to pick up the win.
After a defensive battle in the first half, the Knights went on an 11-point run to start the third quarter and held on after that.
Grace hosted Lanham Christian on Thursday, a semifinal contest that ended too late for inclusion in this edition. A victory puts the Knights in the MISAL championship at 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Model (D.C.).
Grace led Tuesday's contest 16-15 after Seed led 13-10 after the first quarter. Deschaine took the halftime break to remind his team what they need to do to be successful.
“For us, it needs to be defense first,” Deschaine said, “and letting the game come through defense. In the first half, we were making some mistakes and missing some open shots and getting down on ourselves. I told them if they're not knocking down shots to play defense and run the floor and good things will happen. I want to see them encouraging each other and lifting one another up. Our goal each game is to compete and to play to honor the Lord. That's our goal each game.”
Co-captain and senior guard Jonathan Kinyanjui, junior guard Tre Roberson and Saunders created shots for one another and displayed phenomenal passing triangles during the third-quarter run in which the Knights out-scored Seed 19-8 for the period.
Roberson walked away as the game-higher scorer with 17 points, while Saunders added 12 and Kinyanjui added 11.
Grace caused five turnovers against Seed in the final quarter of play. Preston Saunders had two assists, two rebounds and one steal to finish out the quarter. Jordan White (4 points) pressured Seed's Robert Perry so hard at the start of the fourth that Seed was forced to use two time-outs within the first two minutes of play.
Roberson said he's looking forward to one more year with the team and being coached by Deschaine.
“We had the upper edge because we knew what offense Seed would run,” Roberson said. “Because we play harder on defense, our offense came naturally. We'll have to play better man-to-man defense [against Lanham] than we did tonight, especially in the first half. We have to come out like we did in the second half. At halftime, coach was telling us we either had two more games left or six more games left.”
Saunders was in agreement that it was the second half that made all the difference.
“Defensive intensity, and we played a lot smarter and more aggressive in that second half,” Preston Saunders said. “Lanham has some good outside shooters, so we need to guard against that.”
Seed had just two subs to turn to during the match-up. Malik Jackson was the team-high scorer for the visitors with 15 points, and David Poindexter added nine.