BBK: Clay, Henderson, Wagonhurst get the job done for Dons


On a night when Santa Barbara High’s leading scorer faced blanket coverage, Ben Clay, Chris Wagonhurst and Max Henderson stepped up and made sure the Dons stayed alive in the CIF basketball playoffs.

The trio combined for 51 points to lead Santa Barbara to a 62-51 comeback victory over a tough Hart team in a Division 2A quarterfinal game at a packed J.R. Richards Gym on Friday night.

Clay converted several baskets off the pick and roll and hit some big shots from the outside en route to a team-high 20 points. He also grabbed 14 rebounds. Wagonhurst got hot in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 of his 17 points to thwart a Hart comeback. Henderson came out firing in the third quarter, knocking down two of his four 3-pointers to help the Dons open up a 41-32 lead going in the final quarter.

Their scoring was greatly needed as Bolden Brace was being hounded by Hart’s Ryan Kaneshiro. Brace still scored eight points, had five assists, four steals and seven rebounds.

“We had 3 or 4 other guys step up big time and make big plays at big moments,” Santa Barbara coach David Bregante said about Clay, Henderson and Wagonhurst.

Max Henderson held Hart's Myles Franklin to seven points in the second half.

Max Henderson (4) held Hart’s Myles Franklin to seven points in the second half. (Presidio Sports photo)

Santa Barbara (28-4) advances to the semifinals for the second straight year. It will travel to Redlands East Valley on Tuesday.

The Dons didn’t have an answer for lightning-quick Hart point guard Myles Franklin in the early going. Franklin sped past defenders, knocked down 3-pointers  and scored 13  of his game-high 22 points in the first quarter, as the Indians jumped out to a 19-14 lead.

“He had 13 points in the first quarter; we thought he was going to get 60,” said Bregante

But Santa Barbara changed its defense and Clay became a key figure on offense. At the defensive end, the Dons went to a box-and-one defense, with Henderson guarding Franklin. He held the Indians’ star to seven points — four in the second half — for the rest of the game.

Bolden Brace was tightly guarded the entire night. He still managed to score eight points.

Bolden Brace was tightly guarded the entire night. He still managed to score eight points.

Clay, meanwhile, scored eight points in the second quarter, knocking down a couple of 17 footers and scoring layups off the pick and roll. He tied the score at 23-all on a pick-and-roll layup. In a scary scene, Hart’s Cameron Fuller got caught in the air on the play and fell over Clay’s back and slammed face-first to the floor. Fuller stayed on the ground for some time. He eventually got up under his own power and walked off the court. He apparently lost a tooth and did not return to the game.

Clay was feeling it and the junior buried a 17-footer with 50 second left in the first half to give Santa Barbara a 25-23 halftime lead.

“We told him before the game they were really big. We told him if he doesn’t rebound, we don’t win. He took it upon himself to rebound and score. I think he had his best game of the year,” said Bregante.

Hart coach Tom Kelly credited Santa Barbara’s players for making big shots.

“Their guys hit shots and they hit shots they don’t normally hit,” he said. ” We saw four different game films of Santa Barbara and some guys hit shots (tonight) that didn’t even take shots. Credit to them, they made their shots tonight.”

In the third quarter, Clay scored on another pick and roll and then set a screen for Brace, who hit a bucket to give the Dons a 34-29 lead.

“Coach said if anyone is open and it’s your shot, shoot it.  So that’s what I did tonight,” said Clay of his perimeter shooting. ” I was seeing they were shutting Bo down, it’s my opportunity to help Bo out and not really put it all on him. So, I took care of a little bit of the weight tonight.”

On the effectiveness of the pick and roll, Clay said: “My guys love it when I set picks. They said it’s the best thing ever. So, when I set picks I immediately roll, and we get easy buckets.”

After Franklin scored for Hart, Santa Barbara finished the third quarter on a 7-0 run. Henderson hit a three, Nick Busch knocked down two free throws and Wagonhurst scored at the buzzer, grabbing a loose ball after Clay battled for a rebound.

Wagonhurst came up big again early the fourth quarter, knocking down a shot after a wild scramble for the ball. That gave the Dons a 43-32 lead. He hit another shot to make it 51-43 and later buried a 3-pointer for a 52-47 lead with 1:51 to go.

“We all can score,” said Wagonhurst. “Our starting five was all ready to go, so when they were guarding Bo pretty intensely tonight, me and Max took it upon ourselves to shoot some threes, get it going, get the crowd going. And Ben Clay really stepped up as well.”

Wagonhurst added that he and fellow senior Henderson made it point to do whatever it took to keep their playoff run going.

“Tonight, we knew this wasn’t going to be our last night. We wanted to keep playing,” he said.

Brace hit a couple of free throws and Clay scored on an offensive rebound after a free-throw miss to put the game out of reach at 60-49.