By Mark Tennis & Ronnie Flores
Contributing: Paul Muyskens
If anybody knows much about the history of the CIF state basketball playoffs, it’s that seedings are not really seedings. They are based instead more on a formula of giving a higher seed to a section champion over a runner-up or to a section runner-up over a semifinalist. They aren’t like March Madness in the NCAA tournament at all and when a No. 14 beats a No. 3 it’s often not an upset, but expected among those who’ve been following the top teams all season.
This is partly why Friday’s first games in the first-ever CIF open divisions for boys and girls basketball offered such strong matchups. In the South boys, the one game that stood out in the first-round was Long Beach Poly against St. John Bosco of Bellflower. In the North girls, it was St. Mary’s of Stockton hosting Miramonte of Orinda.
Boys: Bell rings up win for Long Beach Poly
The game, an opening round SoCal Open Division playoff contest between Long Beach Poly and St. John Bosco of Bellflower, was all knotted up and Long Beach Poly’s Roschon Prince had been in this situation before.
In a CIFSS Division I-AA semifinal overtime loss to Etiwanda, Prince had the ball in his hands with a chance to win the game, but three guys corralled him and he lost control of it in a mad scramble. On Friday night, the situation came with 10 seconds left and the game tied at 59-59 after the Braves missed out on a couple of prime opportunities to tie the game on their previous possession.
Long Beach Poly coach Sharrief Metoyer looked at his star player and asked him, “Do you got this?” It was a rhetorical question and was just a matter of when the USC recruit was going to get the ball and drive to the basket.
Metoyer didn’t want him to drive too early to allow a change of possession, but also leave enough time for a possible offensive rebound put back.
Prince got the ball and drove the lane, was again corralled and Bosco’s Darien Williams came over for a charge. That left Jordan Bell wide open for an offensive rebound put back. He got the ball and softly and calmly put the ball up in off the glass as the buzzer sounded to give Poly the improbable 61-59 victory.
The third-seeded Jackrabbits will face No. 2 seed Mater Dei in Tuesday’s SoCal Open Division Regional semifinal. The Monarchs downed No. 7 seed El Camino Real of Woodland Hills, 79-54.
“During the timeout, I told Ro (Prince) if he missed, I would be there and that’s exactly what happened,” Bell said amongst a crowd of Poly well-wishers, many who stormed the court after the final buzzer sounded.
Bell, headed to Oregon, finished with 12 points, 13 rebounds and unofficially five blocked shots, a few on run outs from behind that stopped key St. John Bosco field goal conversions.
“I didn’t want to settle for a 3-pointer so I drove to the basket but all the credit goes to Jordan,” said Prince, who finished with a game-high 25 points and 10 rebounds. “He made some key buckets, blocked a lot of shots and saved us.”
“We really couldn’t control what happened on that last play (with the ball going to Bell after Williams slid over) because the ball could’ve fallen any way,” said St. John Bosco coach Derrick Taylor. “If we didn’t panic with 11 seconds remaining, we win that game.”
Lost in all the hoopla surrounding St. John Bosco’s entrance into the new open division and Poly having to “travel” for a road game against the No. 6 seeded Braves was the fact a McDonald’s All American did not play in the first matchup.
Isaac Hamilton, a 6-foot-5 UTEP signee and the state’s best pure scorer, was held out for disciplinary reasons when Long Beach Poly beat the Braves 60-54 at the Nike Extravaganza in early February. He finished with a team-high 22 points.
Both teams struggled offensively in the first half and just when it looked like St. John Bosco (24-7) was going to take control near the end of the second period, Prince, a four-year starter, scored eight consecutive points, including two 3-pointers, to keep Poly (28-3) in the game after it trailed by one (28-27) at halftime.
The second half was a game of runs, as St. John Bosco (which came into the game ranked No. 9 in the state) took an 11-point lead that Poly (ranked No. 5) answered with a 18-2 run to close out the third period
The run was capped by a 3-pointer by sophomore guard K.J. Feagin (five points) as Poly led 47-44 heading into the fourth period.
There were 13 lead changes in this memorable contest.
“Ro is the heart and soul of this team,” Metoyer said. “At the end of the day, I’m just glad we were able to advance and survive in this open division.”
Girls: Free throw misses at end decides St. Mary’s-Miramonte showdown
The strongest feelings at the end of such a frenetic, back-and-forth game between two of the deepest girls teams in the state was that it was just too bad it was officially a No. 2 vs. No. 7 first-round game. It was realistically a battle between two of the top three squads in Northern California.
St. Mary’s sent the local fans from Stockton home happy and relieved after escaping with a 63-62 victory over Miramonte of Orinda.
The Rams (29-2, and No. 6 in the Cal-Hi Sports overall state rankings entering the night) blew a 61-51 lead in the game’s last three minutes. The Rams also could have forced Miramonte to hit a 3-pointer to tie them at the end, but on two different occasions standout sophomore Bri Moore missed the front end of one-and-one free throw situations.
Moore missed the first one with 16.9 seconds left, but got the offensive rebound herself and was fouled again. With 7.9 seconds left, Moore missed in the same situation, but this time Miramonte rebounded.
Then with 2.6 seconds left, Moore committed a foul on Matadors’ freshman Sabrina Ionescu. She could have won the game or tied it from the line, but missed the front end just like Moore. Unique Coleman grabbed the rebound for St. Mary’s and dribbled out the final two seconds before the final horn.
Ionescu led Miramonte with 19 points, including a big 3-point swish in the closing minute that tightened the game. Senior center Breanna Alford added 12 points.
St. Mary’s freshman Kat Tudor was the equal of Ionescu with 19 points and is beginning to show she is much more than just a strong shooter. Despite her late-game free throw misses, Moore still had 16 points and was the best player on the floor.
“I don’t know what I was thinking in those closing seconds,” said St. Mary’s head coach Tom Gonsalves. “Bri is a good free throw shooter and she missed both of those one-and-ones. It all evened out at the end. They did a great job against us and it was a great game.”
Miramonte, which fell to 27-3 and despite the loss probably will still finish in the top 10 of the final state rankings (the girls were No. 8 coming in), proved it belonged at the elite level but was obviously hoping for more.
“Absolutely, it’s too bad this game had to happen now,” said Matadors’ head coach Kelly Sopak. “But it is the way it is. It was a game of runs. They had theirs early and we had ours late. It just didn’t work out at the end.”
Boys Open Division Scoreboard (not including game written up above)
Sheldon (Sacramento) 71, Serra (San Mateo) 50
Up next for the Huskies is a showdown in the North with top-seed Salesian of Richmond (which had first-round bye). What we said above about seedings doesn’t apply with Sheldon being seeded below Bishop O’Dowd. Can’t see what anyone was thinking on that one.
Modesto Christian 57, Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 42
You’ve got to love how the Crusaders embraced the open division concept and now they’re really loving it after their upset of the Dragons. O’Dowd being seeded above Sheldon also looks even more criminal. For Modesto Christian, though, it’s on to the semifinals to play the winner of Saturday night’s game between No. 2 seed Archbishop Mitty and Newark Memorial.
Westchester (Los Angeles) 60, Bullard (Fresno) 58
A tip-in by Calvin Young of Bullard at the buzzer was ruled too late by officials as the Comets escaped the Valley with a win and will now face top-seed Etiwanda in the SoCal semifinals. A cell phone photo published by the Fresno Bee, however, shows the call may have been an error (the photo was taken down several hours later). Even so, the basket still would have only forced overtime so it’s no guarantee that the Knights would have won.
Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 79, El Camino Real (Woodlands Hills) 54
The Monarchs bounced back from their CIF Southern Section Division I-AA title game loss to Etiwanda with an easy win over the Conquistadors. They will host Long Beach Poly Tuesday in the semifinals. Those two teams were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 for most of the regular season (with Poly being No. 1) in the Cal-Hi Sports overall top 20.
Girls Open Division Scoreboard (not including game written up above)
Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 55, Brookside Christian (Stockton) 30
As expected, the Dragons cruised past the 2012 CIF Division V state champions. Such a matchup really makes a mockery of the entire open division format. If the CIF continues it, let’s hope the awarding of byes is consistent between north and south and makes sense.
St. Mary’s (Berkeley) 43, Sacramento 31
Coach Nate Fripp’s girls won in a low-scoring contest against the Dragons. The Panthers advanced to the semifinals and will try for the upset of top NorCal seed Bishop O’Dowd.
Note: St. Mary’s of Stockton, the No. 2 seed in the north, will meet either Carondelet of Concord or Archbishop Mitty of San Jose in Tuesday’s semifinals. Carondelet and Mitty play at Mitty on Saturday night.
La Jolla Country Day 51, Troy (Fullerton) 31
After hearing for weeks from LJCD folks that their team belongs in the top 20, they’ll have to go in now. With a win like this, continuing to rank the Torreys behind a couple of teams they lost to (JSerra, Playa del Rey St. Bernard) can now be ignored. Troy entered the game at No. 8 overall in the state. Up next for LJCD is a matchup in the semis on Tuesday against South No. 1 seed Windward of Los Angeles (30-0), which had a bye in this weekend’s first-round.
Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 91, Stockdale (Bakersfield) 44
The point of this game is that we guess the CIF at least had to find a sixth team for the South open division. It’s hard to see if any other option – such as Narbonne of Los Angeles or Ridgeview of Bakersfield or any other team – would have done any better. The Monarchs advanced to a semifinal game next Tuesday at Santiago of Corona. Maybe their trip to the Inland Empire this time will end a little differently.
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