There was a ton of hype on campus at Foothill on Monday morning with the first game of the season looming later that evening.
But three transfers that head coach Wes Davis believed would be cleared to play right away sat on the bench in street clothes, only to watch the season opener get away from the Trojans early and often.
Pressured and pressed by Independence, the Falcons stormed out to a 20-4 lead and beat the Trojans 70-53 on the road Monday night.
“I think our pressure bothers people,” Independence first-year coach Rich Ross said. “With our press and the way we set it up bothers them and makes them uneasy. We try to get into people’s space and make them uncomfortable and the kids did that tonight.”
Senior Elijah Carter, who was injured for most of last season, was the catalyst for the Falcons (2-0).
“He’s one of our leaders,” Ross said. “He’s probably the top guy. He gets everyone going and gets them amp’d up. He’s really matured a lot … He’s doing a great job for us this year.”
Carter scored 13 of his game-high 22 points in the first half when Independence was able to force countless Foothill (0-1) turnovers into fast-break opportunities.
“It felt good,” Carter said. “I feel like we are hungry. Especially since I was hurt last year and with the way we practice, everyone is just more into it. We really want it.”
Six-foot-nine senior Edward Turner led Foothill with 20 points while putting up a triple-double with double-digit rebounds and blocks, but was without sophomore standout Jaden Phillips down the stretch.
Phillips fouled out midway through the fourth quarter and finished the game with 13 points, while Chaun Davis (a transfer from West) and Ceasar Valdez both scored seven points apiece.
But Foothill did not suit up three transfers in Warren Stingley, Gabriel Bossi and Elijah Seals.
Bossi was deemed ineligible to play, according to Central Section commissioner Jim Crichlow, but paperwork for Stingley and Seals has still yet to be cleared.
With all three players not knowing their eligibility status until Monday morning, Davis said the emotions got the best of his team.
“It was an emotional evening,” Davis said. “Kids don’t know how to take things in an adult world. They don’t understand how to understand adult decisions. It’s just an emotional day. We are a much better team.”
While Foothill reeled, Independence took on every opportunity presented.
While Carter was the emotional leader and took control at the rim, two transfers for the Falcons stepped up.
Kathon Crawford (a transfer from Bakersfield Christian) scored 14 points and Golden Valley transfer Travon Perry came off the bench to score 12, including two crucial 3-pointers in the third quarter to put the Falcons up by 22.
“We felt that once we got them playing our game, then it was over after that,” Carter said. “Once we sped them up and made them want to play (isolation), that’s when we were at our best.”