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By Steve Breazeale

On Saturday, Sam Darnold was busy picking apart an all-star prep football defense in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. On Tuesday, playing in his first basketball game in over a week, Darnold was shredding the Troy High School defense on the hardwood.

Darnold dropped a season-high 29 points, including 17 in the second half, to push the Tritons past the visiting Warriors, 73-69, in a nonleague contest.

The Tritons (8-7) led 37-24 at the half but that score wouldn’t stand for long. Darnold came out to start the third quarter firing from beyond the arc. He hit two consecutive 3-pointers and scored down low on a put-in after corralling a sharp pass from senior Nick Crankshaw to build San Clemente’s lead to 45-24.

San Clemente led by as many as 20 points in the third before the Troy (8-5) guard combo of Jason Choi and Aaron Yoo ignited a run by attacking the paint. The Troy guard play got their center, Wenzel Akinboro, involved, which proved effective against the Triton bigs for a stretch. Wenzel had a quiet first half but had 10 points in the final two quarters.

After Troy junior Ryan Mickle hit a 3-pointer midway through the fourth to cut San Clemente’s lead to 63-57, Darnold responded.

On the Tritons next possession, Darnold hit the deepest of his five 3-pointers on the night and broke up a pass for a steal on the Warriors next possession. Senior Cade Griffin converted a layup off the turnover and the Tritons held a 68-57 lead that would not be threatened the rest of the way.

Darnold led the team with 10 rebounds and had five steals.

“(Darnold) was fantastic tonight. Especially after not playing a game in two weeks almost,” San Clemente head coach Marc Popovich said. “Besides pouring in 29 points, I’d guess he was our leading rebounder tonight and one of our better defensive players. He brings so much more physicality to the table, along with a lovely scoring touch.”

San Clemente will travel to play San Juan Hills on Jan. 9 for a final nonleague game before entering South Coast League play next week.

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