PALO CEDRO – With Redding Christian missing two starters with injuries, the Lions had a big void to fill with the Five-Star League title on the line.
Luckily for the Lions, their 6-foot-10 junior center Drew Nelson-Crowell fit the bill perfectly.
Nelson-Crowell showed why he is an MVP candidate Friday night, dropping 36 points and pulling down 24 rebounds in a dominating performance in Redding Christian’s 63-54 home win over Burney at Fitzpatrick Gymnasium on senior night.
“I told him we needed him to be our No. 1 option and to turn it up with rebounding and I’ve seen a different motor and energy from him,” said Redding Christian coach Todd Dwyer. “This is his time to shine. We’re not going to get real far if he’s not having big games.”
The win gives the Lions a share of the FSL crown with Los Molinos and Redding Christian is expected to get the top seed in the D-VI playoffs when the brackets are released Saturday.
Redding Christian may not be as electric as it was before sophomores Shane Harper and Jaiden Piercey went down with broken collarbones suffered during a pep rally. But having a monster in the paint helps with wearing opponents down.
Video by Tracy Holmes/Shasta County Sports
It also helps when the opposing team turns the ball over 11 times in the opening quarter like the visiting Raiders. Nelson-Crowell had a pair of old-fashioned three-point plays in that span and the Lions jumped out to an 18-5 advantage after the opening stanza.
“My rule of thumb is a turnover is a point for the other team,” Burney coach Jedediah Tate said. “I said ‘look at this hole we’re in and look at all these turnovers.’ So once we cleaned them up we got back in it.”
Nelson-Crowell went right at fellow big man Marc Lopez and got him to draw his fourth foul with 4:40 to go in the second quarter. Even with Nelson-Crowell getting double- and triple-teamed in the paint, he still found a way to use his leverage and strength to get to the rim for easy putbacks and soft-touch turnaround post shots to help the Lions to a 35-27 halftime lead.
“If I’m being double- and triple-teamed then I’m doing something right,” Nelson-Crowell said. “It’s pretty cool for a team to respect me like that.”
Lopez sat for a minute and played the rest of the game without fouling out. But him playing careful allowed for Nelson-Crowell to take his aggression to the next level. The Lions’ big man cleaned up three misses around the rim early in the third to build a 43-31 advantage.
Lopez answered with back-to-back buckets to ignite an 8-0 run capped by a transition layup from Tairin Daum to make it a two-possession game at 43-39 early in the fourth quarter.
That would be as close as the Raiders would get, falling victim to freshman call-up Logan Lindsey, who provided a spark on defense and in the transition game for the Lions. Lindsey contributed seven fourth-quarter points and finished the game with 10 points and 12 rebounds for a double-double.
Ty Vickery’s 3-pointer with 4:15 to go in the game extended the Lions lead to 10 at 55-45. Vickery and Clark Smith knocked down free throws in the final minutes to seal the victory.
“There were times I felt like we were up 20 points and looked at the score and we’re up six or seven,” Dwyer said. “We’re going to have to grind out some of these games like this going forward.”
Lopez and Daum each scored 16 points for Burney while Heath Johnson pitched in nine points.
Redding Christian’s two seniors – Vickery and Jackson Black – scored eight points and seven points, respectively.
Redding Christian 63, Burney 54
Redding Christian 18-17-8-20—63
Burney (4-4 FSL, 7-13): Lopez 16, Daum 16, Johnson 9, Lewis 7, St. Clair 3, Tate 2, Mercado 1.
Redding Christian (7-1 FSL, 24-3): Nelson-Crowell 34, Lindsey 10, Vickery 8, Black 7, VanDenend, Clark 2.
3-pointers—Burney 2 (St. Clair, Lewis); Redding Christian 2 (Vickery, Black).
Team FSL, Overall
Redding Christian 7-1, 24-3
Los Molinos 7-1, 17-7
Burney 4-4, 7-13
Mercy 2-6, 6-14
Chester 0-8, 6-14