Citrus Valley Nate Coppi

Citrus Valley guard Nate Coppi scores with his left hand against Knight.

The Citrus Valley High basketball team made history by advancing to a section semi-final game for the first time. However, the Blackhawks fell to host Glendora 55-53 in a heartbreaking finish on Friday, June 4, ending their season.

“We made history,” Citrus Valley coach Yon Okorodudu said. “We’ve never gone this far. I’ve never gone this far in all my years as a coach. It’s a big deal.”

The Blackhawks’ playoff run ended against Glendora when Austin Clark made a game-winning shot with 1.6 seconds left.

It was quite a ride for the Blackhawks, who defeated Palmdale Knight 49-42 Tuesday, June 1, to make it to the semis.

Against Knight, Citrus Valley trailed 37-29 until Jacob Taylor made a 3-pointer followed by two threes from Kentrail (KJ) Johnson.

The Blackhawks suddenly led 38-37 with 6:08 left, prompting a Knight timeout.

“I was feeling it,” Johnson said. “The team needed it and it got us hyped up. It felt great.”

It was still close at 42-42 with 3:30 left when Taylor glided in for a dunk with 2:33 left, then drained a three from the wing and Nate Coppi made a layup with 1:19 left to all but end the suspense. Knight did not score again.

Citrus Valley played better at the outset than in the previous game against Diamond Bar when the Brahmas stormed to a 10-0 lead.

“We got dialed in and flipped the switch,” Coppi said. “Everyone started working on defense. That energy on the defense got us going.

“And that dunk from Jacob Taylor sparked it all for us.”

Citrus Valley was proud to make it to the section semis for the first time.

“It feels good — best team in CV history,” Coppi said. “I’m just so proud of the guys. We really got it together in the playoffs.”

Okorududu said the Blackhawks’ main problem in the first half against Knight was their shots weren’t falling.

“I felt like we were getting great looks in the first half,” he said.

“I told them at halftime that with the law of averages we were going to start making shots. And they did, and it was right at the right time. KJ stepped up for us and made some big threes.”

Another factor, Okorududu said, was the defense and rebounding of players like Taylor, Brock Lium and Kyle Wallace.

“A lot of this wouldn’t be possible without our assistant coach Taylor Bell,” the veteran coach said. “He’s one of the best coaching minds I’ve ever been around. He’s the assistant coach at Mt. San Jacinto [community college] and they didn’t play this year, so he agreed to come back just for this year. Our defense has really improved and he deserves a ton of the credit.”

Taylor led the Blackhawks against Knight with 22 points, Coppi had 12 and Chris Cooper and Johnson chipped in with six a piece.

Citrus Valley trailed Glendora by 11 before storming back.

The Blackhawks took a 52-50 lead with 1:35 left in the game after Coppi made a floater in the key, but the lead did not hold up.

The victory sent the Tartans to their fourth section title game. Young led Glendora (22-6) against Citrus Valley with 25 points.

Taylor paced the Blackhawks (10-6) with 23 points and 10 rebounds; Coppi had 13 points and Johnson 11.

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