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LAYTON — It sure didn't take first-year coach Chad Sims long to change a culture of mediocrity associated with Northridge's boys basketball.
A year after Northridge won just three games, the Knights are suddenly Region 1 champs, clinching the title with a 53-45 victory over Weber on Friday night
In a game that was tight throughout, Northridge outscored Weber 10-2 over the final minute and a half to claim its first region title since 2002.
"I'm happy for the kids, and I'm happy for the school and the community. I'm just happy to be a part of it, truly. It's fun to watch kids be successful," said Sims, who got a huge roar from Northridge's fans as he cut down the last piece of net in the postgame celebration.
Defense was the catalyst on Friday night, just as it has been for Northridge (13-7) during its late-season surge.
"That's one thing we said from the beginning of the season, we said defense would win us a region championship," said Christensen, who led his team with 17 points.
In the first meeting between these teams, Christensen scored a game-winning layup at the buzzer to lead Northridge to a 58-57 win. The Friday night rematch was equally as tight, with the score level at 17-17 after the first quarter and then 35-35 at the end of the third quarter.
With under two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter it was still tied at 43-43.
Northridge inched ahead 43-39 with 3:46 remaining on three straight buckets by Christensen, Karson Casteel and Morgan Berg, but within a minute Weber had tied it up on consecutive layups from Hayden Schenck and Justin Nielsen.
The decisive moment came with 1:22 remaining on an opportunistic play by Christensen.
When a Weber player didn't notice Christensen standing behind him following a defensive rebound, the Northridge guard easily picked his pocket and converted a three-point play after being fouled on his layup.
"Right place, right time," joked Sims. "Preston has made plays for us all year and he happened to be the guy in that spot."
Thanks to a couple of offensive rebounds, Weber had three cracks to chip away at Northridge's 46-43 lead but missed three straight shots. Weber had no choice but to foul after the missed opportunities, and Northridge iced the game by making 7-of-8 free throws in the final 31 seconds.
"We've been in this situation where it's been tight and low scoring, and I think our kids felt comfortable," said Sims.
The victory was particularly satisfying for Northridge as it played without 6-foot-9 center Joe Newkirk, who was forced to sit out after suffering a concussion last week. Despite missing its second leading rebounder, Northridge still outrebounded the Warriors 28-19.
Along with Christensen's 17 points, Casteel added 16 points for the Knights. Jake Shaw led Weber with 13 points.