Christopher High junior Ebuka Okeke battles to the basket against Valley Christian in the CCS playoffs. Photo: Jonathan Natividad
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In the early part of January, the Christopher High boys basketball team was fighting through a tough league schedule and had just a 5-8 overall record. After a hard last-minute loss to Oak Grove, guard Uriah Brown vowed that better days were coming.

“This will strengthen us,” Brown said. “We’ll be a tough ‘out’ in February. I have nothing but faith.”

Truer words were never spoken. 

The Cougars won eight of their next 11 games to close the regular season and then plowed through the Central Coast Section Division II playoffs to reach the final. Afterward, Christopher moved into the NorCal Division IV playoffs and claimed a road win before losing in the quarterfinals. They surely did jell and became a very tough ‘out’; just ask Oak Grove, Leland and Weed, opponents who were vanquished in the February run.

“I’m very proud of our players and their resilience during the season,” Christopher High coach Adam Sax said. “They always gave it their best effort and were a lot of fun to coach.”

The accomplishments extended Christopher boys basketball’s impressive run to four consecutive CCS finals (excluding the Covid-19 year). Streaks are challenging, as players graduate and new additions must be integrated. Additionally, there are injuries and transfers and depth is always an issue.

The playoff run began on Feb. 20 in the quarterfinals against Oak Grove. The Cougars led 24-12 at halftime and rolled to a 42-28 victory.

“We picked up our energy, especially in the second half,” CHS guard Nico Ragasa said. “On defense, it was about communication and helping on drives. On offense, we kept the ball moving. If we could get inside and they would collapse there, it opened it up for our three-point shooters.”

Brown led the Cougars in scoring with 12 points, Ebuka Okeke added eight, Rafael Urrabazo scored six and Ragasa tallied five.

“We were definitely the better defensive team tonight,” Brown said. “That helped us overcome not the best offensive night.”

Leland next visited the Cougars’ gym. The Chargers were rolling via playoff victories over Rancho San Juan, Gunn and Woodside. That came to a total stop, caused primarily by the inside force of Jaxen Robinson in a 60-47 victory.

The Cougars’ junior center was unstoppable in the win as he scored 33 points and pulled down 12 rebounds. Brown supported with 13 points. After a late start to basketball due to quarterbacking the football team to the CCS Division II final, Robinson had rounded into peak form.

“That was definitely my best game,” said Robinson, as he noted the growth from getting more and more repetitions in practice. “I’ve gotten better with reps and reps with my teammates. We’re getting better as a team every moment.”

Leland did provide quite a battle and led much of the first half. Buoyed by three Robinson buckets—two of those off offensive rebounds—Christopher closed the half with a 9-0 run for a 26-22 lead. The Chargers fought back after the break to lead 30-28. But the Cougars finally established separation in the middle of the third period via a Robinson three-point play, a Brown left wing triple and a drive by Trey Caragio, finished with a spin move for a layup.

“We relied on our defense,” coach Sax said. “We moved the ball well. Jaxen did a good job down low. Every day he gets better.”

In the CCS final, Christopher hung with a superb Valley Christian team for half of the game. The Warriors led 27-22 at the break and then pulled away for a 48-35 win. Brown scored 10 to lead CHS, Okeke had nine and Robinson added seven points.

“Valley Christian is very athletic and well coached,” Sax said. “Their defense was solid and prevented us from getting to the paint. They did a great job defending Jaxen and not giving us any easy baskets.”

Christopher High junior center Jaxen Robinson posts up against a Valley Christian defender. Photo: Jonathan Natividad

The NorCal path began far up the road north of Sacramento in the small town of Weed, a six-hour bus ride away. The Weed Cougars had a tall squad, with a frontline measuring 6-foot-5, 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-3. Christopher shot out of the gate strong and led 24-18 at half. A third period burst extended the lead but the Cougars had to fend off a late Weed rally in front of their frenzied fans.

“They cut the lead to four with two minutes to go,” Sax said. “Trey Caragio hit a big three with 1:50 left. Defensively we were in the right spots and followed the game plan. Offensively we wanted to be patient and make the extra pass.”

Sax cited two big threes from Brown that built the early lead and great ball-handling by Sam Guenther, Ragasa and Caragio against the Weed pressure defense. Robinson had another stellar game, totaling 19 points and 14 rebounds. Brown scored 13 and Ragasa contributed eight points. 

NorCal play continued with another road trip, as the Cougars visited Natomas in Sacramento two days later. The Nighthawks prevailed 65-58. A valiant effort but the home squad pulled away late. Okeke had a big game for CHS with 16 points and Robinson and Caragio each scored 10 points.

The season ended with a 16-13 overall record. The playoff run to a CCS final and a NorCal win has only been matched once in Christopher history, by the 2019-20 team. Additionally, the four-year finals streak includes the only four times in school history that a Cougar team has reached the final, as no previous edition got that far. 

Just as Uriah Brown predicted, it was a fantastic February run for Christopher High. 

Christopher High senior guard Nico Ragasa throws in an inbounds pass against Valley Christian in the CCS finals game. Photo: Jonathan Natividad
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