SOLANA BEACH Army-Navy Academy’s dynamic duo struck again Friday night.
Junior point guard Devin Watson poured in 29 points and 7-foot-1 Oregon State-bound center Cheikh N’diaye had 20 points, 24 rebounds and five blocked shots as the No. 2-ranked Warriors rebounded from a slow start to beat host Santa Fe Christian 64-53 before a full house in a key Coastal League game.
“Our main guys are Devin and Cheikh and that doesn’t change,” said Army-Navy coach Tom Tarantino. “But we have good role players, too.”
Those role players — Brad Nowakowski, Akhadj Diatta, Caleb Morris and David Torres — had 15 points and six rebounds Friday as Army-Navy (19-4, 5-1) knocked Santa Fe Christian (16-6, 4-2) out of a three-way tie along with Francis Parker atop the league standings.
“Santa Fe Christian is very athletic and the best shooting team in the league,” N’diaye said of a team that made nine 3-pointers Friday.
“So we needed to play great defense. Devin is our leader on offense and defense and he tightened down the game.”
Watson, however, was disappointed when SFC point guard Justin Byrd limped off the floor after turning an ankle in pregame warm-ups.
“Justin just isn’t a guy, he’s the heart of our team,” said SFC coach Chad Bickley. “Watson is so difficult to guard. He’s always a step ahead. He’s the hardest guy to guard that we’ve played.”
The 6-6 Grant Corsi, one of SFC’s big bodies along with 6-6 Brodie Martin and 6-4 Dom Burtech, had 18 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots as college recruiters looked on. Cole Needham had 14 points, including four 3-pointers, and Brian Finley added 12 points and five rebounds.
“I was disappointed Byrd didn’t play,” said Watson, who had 20 or more points for the 16th time this season and is drawing interest from most Pac-12 schools.
“He’s a good player, and you like to compete against good players.
“Honestly, I hope his ankle is better. With or without him, this was a big game, a game we needed to win. There was a big crowd and they were loud.
“We got behind early, but we calmed down, got in a better mental state and executed.”