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Canyon boys basketball stays hot, wins fierce league battle with Foothill

SANTA ANA — The Canyon boys basketball team used tenacious defense and timely shooting to beat Foothill 56-54 on Friday to add more drama to the Crestview League race.

The Comanches (21-5, 3-1) are now tied for first place with the No. 7-ranked Knights (23-3, 3-1), and each team has two league game remaining.

Canyon, ranked No. 9 in Orange County, led by 15 points before Foothill went small and began to chip away. The Knights cut it to five points, but the Comanches held on for their seventh consecutive win.

Sophomore Brandon Benjamin scored 21 points for Canyon. Seniors Connor Leonard and Pasha Golestaneh added 13 points and 10 points, respectively.

Canyon coach Nate Harrison praised his team’s defensive intensity, calling it the catalyst in the league rematch. The Comanches dropped their first meeting with Foothill 56-53 but haven’t lost since.

“I think the whole game was about our defensive effort and you saw how hard it was for them to score,” Harrison said. “They eventually got away from playing bigs at all and trying to play a little faster because we had done such a good job at the half court, but it’s a credit to our kids. We made it a nightmare for them all night long on defense and that’s really what was the difference in the game.”

Canyon stretched a five-point halftime advantage to a 15-point cushion in the third quarter thanks to a pair of 3s from Golestaneh and one from Leonard while Benjamin was wreaking havoc in the paint.

Foothill coach Yousof Etemadi said he expected Benjamin to get near his 22-point average, but he noted the impact Golestaneh and Leonard had on the game.

“Benjamin is going to get his points,” Etemadi said, “but they had a couple other starters that didn’t score very well against us (first meeting) that made some shots and stepped up in their roles.”

“He’s just so strong, that’s a 15-year old sophomore that’s doing that on the floor,” Harrison said of Benjamin, “and I’ll say it to anybody that wants to hear it, but he’s the best player in Orange County.”

Travis Paleo led the Knights with 18 points, Carlo Billings added 13 points and Zack Snead chipped in 8 points.

Etemadi expects his team to show resiliency in its final two league games, against Villa Park (Tuesday) and Yorba Linda (Thursday).

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