Royals get back to work on defense in Holiday Classic

It took a quarter for the San Marcos boys basketball team to pull itself out of vacation mode.

And the Royals did it by getting down to business on defense.

Spencer Johnson stole an Oxnard pass and went in for a layup to start 7-0 run midway through the second quarter, sparking San Marcos to a 59-45 victory over the Yellowjackets in an opening-round game at the Santa Barbara Holiday Classic on Monday at J.R. Richard Gym.

Playing sloppy (9 turnovers) and falling behind 19-11 in the first quarter, the Royals shook off the holiday rust in the second quarter by outscoring Oxnard 18-5.

“We really didn’t step up in the first quarter at all, and nine turnovers is way too much,” said San Marcos coach Jarrod Bradley.

Johnson’s steal and bucket was followed by a blocked shot by Christian Mkpado, which the Royals converted into a 3-point basket by Chad Ridenour and a 24-20 lead. Ridenour then picked off an Oxnard pass and raced down court for a layup. The Yellowjackets (7-6) stopped the run with a free throw, but the Royals countered with 3-pointer by Kevin Vasquez off the bench.

“Defensively, we made a good run in the second quarter,” Bradley said. “We made it difficult for 42 (Matt Ramon) and 22 (Bryan Dickey), their leading scorers, to really score, and we got some steals and got in transition as well.”

San Marcos ended the quarter with another steal and layup by Johnson, giving it a 31-24 lead.

The Royals (10-2) did a nice job moving the ball to open holes in Oxnard’s zone defense. On their first two possessions of the third quarter, they got the ball inside to Mkpado for baskets.

Except for missing a dunk on a breakaway, Mkpado played a strong game. He scored 10 points, grabbled six rebounds, had two blocked shots and held Oxnard’s leading scorer Matt Ramon to 13 points, six below his average.

Chad Ridenour led a balanced San Marcos offense with 11 points. After Mkpado’s 10, Johnny Manzo and Vasquez each scored seven points and Johnson and Cade Ridenour added six points and six rebounds apiece

Cade Ridenour built the lead to 12 points (49-37) in the fourth quarter off an offensive rebound.

“Cade Ridenour made his first start for us today and play great,” Bradley said. “We’re excited about he played, we’re excited about how Spencer played — he came in and played four and one for us, he played a ton of minutes — and Kevin Vasquez came in and scored five points for us in a short amount of time.”

The Royals will play Clovis West at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.