By Bonta Hill
After a slow start in the first quarter, Stuart Hall High School rolled over Bentley School of Lafayette in a 56-39 win to advance to the second round of the CIF-North Coast Section Division V boys basketball playoffs.
Rahsaan Johnson led the sixth-seeded Knights (16-12) with 16 points, and center Carter Chickering had five blocks and altered several more shots, as Stuart Hall opened up 20-point lead in the second half.
But the Knights committed 19 turnovers, with six coming in the opening quarter that led to Bentley (15-12) holding an 8-7 lead after the first frame.
“We will take the win, but I thought we played how we practiced the last couple of days, and that was sloppy,” said Stuart Hall head coach Charles Johnson. “We talked about that in the locker room afterwards and we’ll try to address that. Hopefully we’ll come out, strap it up tomorrow for practice, and get ready to play Saturday.”
Despite the turnovers, the Knights shot 50 percent from the field, while holding the Phoenix to 25 percent.
The Stuart Hall offense began to click in the second quarter, opening the frame with a 7-1 run to take a 14-9 lead. Chickering made it difficult for the Phoenix inside, sending away four shots in the frame, solidifying the Knights post defense.
Stuart Hall would never relinquish that lead, as they built a 10-point halftime lead on the strength of three three-pointers in the period.
Johnson would assert himself after the halftime break, scoring six quick points and capping his nine-point third period with a three-pointer to push the Knights lead to 42-26 going into the final frame.
“We started slow and coach got into us at halftime,” Johnson said. “Coach Johnson got into my head about me being a senior and captain of this team and how I needed to lead. I took the lead and start making shots.”
For Bentley, the game provided to be a useful experience for a team that went 3-18 last season. Still, Bentley head coach Frank Williams didn’t make any excuses about his team’s performance.
“Bottom line, the game came down to physicality, and they were more physical than we were,” Williams said. “This is the first opportunity for my guys to play in this type of atmosphere and it was a learning experience.”
Stuart Hall will look to ride the defense of Chickering and scoring punch from Johnson on Saturday on the road against third seed Head-Royce.
“I told Carter not to worry about offense, because I felt like I was putting too much pressure on him, but now he’s playing good ball,” Johnson said. “Raahsaan is a good ball player, and he’s the heart of the team. I’m going to miss him next year, but hopefully I get to ride that turkey a few more games.
Rahsaan Johnson – 16
Tim Connolly – 9
Cade Mclaughlin – 7
Carter Chickering – 6
LaBoyd Ricard – 6