IRVINE – Crean Lutheran knew what it was in for Tuesday night against Tustin in the  Empire League boys basketball opener for both teams.

“We know Tustin’s always going to bring that competitive fire and that fight,” said Crean coach Nate Klitzing. “We knew this would be a really tough test for us right out of the gate in league play.”

The Saints toughed it out, winning 52-45 at Crean Lutheran High to extend their league winning streak to 22 games.

Crean Lutheran went undefeated in league the previous two seasons.

Crean Lutheran freshman Kaiden Bailey led the Saints with 15 points. Dylan Gomez, a sophomore, scored 11 points and senior Patrick Miranda scored 10.

Eli Nyeazi led Tustin with 21 points and nine rebounds. He scored 10 of the Tillers’ 15 fourth-quarter points.

Tustin senior Josh Birket, a transfer from Crean Lutheran, scored nine points with eight rebounds.

The Saints (12-5 overall) are No. 12 in the Orange County Top 25 and Tustin (13-6) is No. 24.

Crean Lutheran took a 37-30 lead into the fourth quarter. Riley Conerty converted a three-point play to make it 40-30.

It seemed the Saints were about to pull away but Nyeazi would not let that happen. His 16-foot jump shot with 1:42 remaining closed the gap to 46-43.

Bailey made a fallaway jumper in the lane for a 48-43 lead, and Miranda and Gomez made two free throws each in the final 30 seconds to secure the win for the Saints.

Crean Lutheran freshman Kaiden Bailey scored a team-high 15 points as the Saints beat Tustin 52-45 in the Empire opener for both ….

— Steve Fryer (@SteveFryer) January 11, 2023

Crean Lutheran made 18 of its 49 shots for 37 percent. The Saints were 3 for 18 on 3-point shots. Tustin was 16 for 52 (31 percent) on all shots, 2 for 14 on 3-pointers.

Related Articles

High School Sports |

Mater Dei girls basketball uses big first quarter to sprint past Orange Lutheran

High School Sports |

Fryer’s Fab 5: Orange County boys basketball standouts last week, Jan. 10

High School Sports |

South Coast League boys basketball opener is a big one

High School Sports |

Sage Hill girls basketball believes challenging schedule will help continue its rise

High School Sports |

Orange County boys athlete of the week: Rockwell Reynolds, Santa Margarita

Heavy body contact was frequent on shots, rebounds, dribble drives, inbounds plays and all else. Klitzing knew that was coming, and so did Bailey.

“We didn’t shoot it well tonight,” Klitzing said. “But you can chalk that up to first home game jitters. And Tustin does a lot of things well to mess you up.”

“I think we’re ready for anything,” Bailey said. “We can compete with any team out here, in Orange County, and in the state, actually. But that’s just me.”