Citrus Valley High 6-foot-6 forward Jacob Taylor missed much of this season with ankle problems, but lately he has made up for lost time.
Taylor scored 28 points on Thursday, May 27, to lead the Blackhawks to a 65-60 victory against Diamond Bar in a CIF-Southern Section Division 3A second-round basketball game.
The victory lifted Citrus Valley (8-5) into the quarterfinals for the second time in school history. The Blackhawks were scheduled to host Palmdale Knight on Tuesday, June 1 (too late for publication).
“It feels amazing,” Taylor said. “We’re on the best run in school history.”
Citrus Valley struggled on defense early and trailed 10-0 in the first quarter.
“We were just a little lazy on defense and needed to clamp down on them,” Taylor said. “We needed to pressure the ball, get our hands up and slide our feet.”
Citrus Valley coach Yon Okorodudu, a Highland resident, said a lack of execution on defense was the culprit.
“We wanted to make their first three possessions our best on defense and instead we made several defensive mistakes and left No. 24 [Diamond Bar’s Dylan Stout, 21 points] open,” he said.
Citrus Valley rallied and trailed just 23-17 after one quarter and 36-33 at halftime.
Blackhawk guard Nate Coppi made two huge 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, the second of which gave the Blackhawks a 60-55 lead.
Stout then missed a wide-open dunk for Diamond Bar (12-4) with 3:18 left in the game and Taylor followed in his own miss at the other end to increase Citrus Valley’s lead to seven.
Recardo Calimas made a pair of baskets for the Brahmas to pull Diamond Bar to within 62-58 with 1:46 left, but Citrus Valley scored against the Brahmas press on a long inbounds pass to Taylor. The closest Diamond Bar got was four the rest of the way.
“It feels good,” Okorodudu said. “It’s unexpected with our roster. But the thing is that even with Jacob out we weren’t losing games by that much.”
Citrus Valley finished in a third-place tie with Yucaipa in the Citrus Belt League with a 5-5 league record. Diamond Bar placed second in the Hacienda League to unbeaten Los Altos.
Kentrail Johnson backed Taylor’s big effort with 15 points, Coppi had 10 and Kyle Wallace five.