Ardrey Kell junior guard Steven Santa Ana had a night to remember Tuesday, scoring a career-high 32 points and going past 1,000 for his career in the Knights’ 78-54 victory against host Providence.
One night after Ardrey Kell’s tough conference loss to defending state champion Olympic 53-46, Knights coach Michael Craft was concerned how his team would perform against its archrival. But it didn’t take long to realize Santa Ana was going to be almost impossible to stop.
He scored 11 of Ardrey Kell’s 13 points in the first quarter, and the Knights (16-5, 9-2 So Meck8) led by eight. But Providence kept the game close in the second. A 3-pointer by Nolan Nelson with 2:55 left in the quarter cut the Panthers’ deficit to 22-20, prompting Craft to call a timeout.
When the game resumed, Santa Ana scored 12 straight, including a 3-pointer with 4 seconds left, and the Knights led 34-22 at the break.
Santa Ana stayed hot early in the second half, scoring the team’s first two baskets for a total of 16 straight Ardrey Kell points. He finished the night with four 3-pointers and was 10-for-10 from the free-throw line. He needed nine points heading into the game to join Justin Cheek as the only players in school history to score 1,000 points.
“The coaches and my teammates really give me a lot of confidence,” Santa Ana said. “Teams don’t want to give me the open 3, so I just need to find different ways to score, and tonight my guys found me in open spots. Once I hit my first shot I really felt like I couldn’t be stopped.”
Ardrey Kell also did a good job on defense, holding Providence (3-18, 1-10) without a field goal for more than five minutes in the third quarter. With conference-leading Berry coming to Ardrey Kell on Friday, Craft was pleased his team didn’t overlook the Panthers.
“I knew we would get their (Providence’s) best effort, and we did,” Craft said. “I give credit to the kids to coming out with the focus we needed to get a win. Now we get to test ourselves against a real, real good Berry squad.”
Rhyle Scott was the only other Knight in double figures with 10 points. Providence was led by Dalen Dotson’s 11 points, and Nelson added 10.
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