Winners on the day at The Walter Pyramid in Long Beach are Crespi of Encino and Long Beach Poly. Winners at Colony High in Ontario are Ayala of Chino Hills, Harvard-Westlake of North Hollywood and St. Bernard of Playa del Rey. Recaps by Ronnie Flores & Mark Tennis.
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Crespi (Encino) 66,
Redondo (Redondo Beach) 63 (OT)
A rematch of the CIF Southern Section Open Division consolation final in which Crespi won 89-71 figured to be much different. The game was played in a big arena setting and Crespi didn¹t figure to convert 16 times on 3-pointers as it did in the first meeting between regionally-ranked clubs.
Redondo predictably kept the game a bit closer, and actually stormed out to an early first half lead. Crespi, however, picked up its own defensive intensity and defeated the Seahawks for the second time this season to advance to the state final versus Berkeley.
“That was a war, plain and simple,” said Crespi head coach Russell White, whose team will be gunning for its second consecutive state title after winning in Division IV last year. “It was two great teams going at it. I thought in the fourth period and overtime our guys played very well defensively.”
Crespi (32-4) trailed 32-23 at halftime against a team that lost in the CIFSS Open Division quarterfinals to nationally-ranked Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth. Redondo Union (28-7) then was outscored 19-10 in the third period and nearly lost the game at the regulation buzzer, but Crespi’s Brandon Williams missed a wide-open streaking layup with the score tied 56-56. The Celts didn’t panic or hang their heads and responded by keeping up their defense, while Williams (15 points) atoned for the miss by converting a conventional 3-point basket with 37.7 seconds remaining in overtime to give Crespi a 62-58 lead.
“I wasn’t down at all; I knew we still had momentum going into overtime,” said Williams, who added seven rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots.
Just as he did in last year’s D4 state title game, USC-bound D’Anthony Melton came up with a clutch defensive play at a crucial moment for Crespi, while adding game-highs of 21 points and 15 rebounds. With Redondo Union holding a 56-54 lead with 36 seconds remaining, Melton stuffed a field goal attempt by the Seahawks’ Leland Green and was fouled after making the big defensive play. He tied the game up without the Celts having to take an offensive possession.
“We fought, Crespi fought, they played very well; both teams competed particularly hard,” said Redondo Union coach Reggie Morris Jr. “Great players make great plays and that’s what Melton did.”
Crespi made 6-of-23 on 3-pointers, but Redondo Union made only 5-of-19. The Sea Hawks were led by senior Green with 15 points, while junior Ryse Williams added 13. Crespi out-rebounded Redondo 40-36 and nobody besides Melton had more than eight, so it’s not hard to figure out his impact on the game’s outcome.
Poly (Long Beach) 61,
J.W. North (Riverside) 54
There was a lid on the rim for a majority of this game, so it came down to free throw shooting. In the end, it was Poly that shot more — and made more — to advance to its first CIF state final in boys basketball in 32 years.
In its last appearance, Poly won the D1 state title in 1983-84 to wrap up the mythical national title, and in 1921 defeated Berkeley 21-17.
“This win really means a lot when I look up at the walls, the banners look full, but there are only two for basketball,” said Long Beach Poly’s Zafir Williams, who scored 16 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and made two key free throws with 35.2 second remaining to give Poly a 57-51 lead and a bit of breathing room in a game that was a rematch of the CIF Southern Section Division I-AA championship won by J.W. North.
Poly guard Drew Buggs, who struggled at times in the section final, willed his team to victory with tough buckets underneath and key rebounds. He finished with a team-high 20 points, six rebounds and three assists.
“I really wanted to win,” Buggs said. “I felt I let my team down in the CIF championship game.”
Both teams shot under 34 percent from the field and under 25 percent from the 3-point line. The difference was Poly (24-10) made 19-of-34 from the charity stripe, while J.W. North (30-5) made 9-of-21. The Huskies, which came into the game ranked No. 20 overall in the state, particularly struggled from the field, making only 3-of-19 on 3-pointers and 21-of-68 field goal attempts.
Without strongman forward Christian Gray, it’s just hard to imagine how J.W. North, which was looking for its first CIF state final appearance under long-time coach Mike Bartee, would have remained close in this game. He dominated the glass early on and scored on at least six offensive rebound put backs. The 6-foot-5 senior scored a game-high 27 points, and grabbed 16 rebounds.
Long Beach Poly coach Shelton Diggs credited senior Harrison Bonner for his excellent defensive work on UC Riverside-bound Dykimbe Martin.
“It was a very good win, they got us last time because we didn’t execute in the fourth period,” Diggs said. “We wanted to put more pressure on their shooters. Bonner has been doing great job locking guards down. With the media timeouts, our goal was to win the game in four-minute increments, and you see what the result was.”
Ayala (Chino Hills) 63,
Bonita (La Verne) 54
There were a lot of possibilities at the start of the regional playoffs that two teams from the same league would meet for a regional final, but in this bracket it actually happened.
Since Bonita (28-7) posted an 81-80 overtime win over the Bulldogs (33-3) in a Palomares League contest, a back-and-forth affair seemed likely. That didn’t happen, however, as Ayala grabbed an early 16-5 lead that held up by at least five points for the rest of the contest.
“I feel great right now,” Ayala’s John Edgar told Steve Ramirez of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. “We’ve been working all year and this is a big thing for us. We have a great coach, a great team. We’ve just been doing it all year. We’re just going to keep on working and try to get another ring.”
Edgar, who scored 23 points, was referring to a CIF Southern Section title, but the “another” ring would be of the state variety. Ayala is making its first appearance in a CIF state final.
Austen Awosika also had another big night for the Bulldogs with 20 points.
Bonita actually had the game’s high scorer as Joe Quintana hit for 24 points, including six on two 3-pointers in the final two minutes that at least forced Ayala to hit some free throws to secure the win.
Harvard-Westlake (N. Hollywood) 52,
Viewpoint (Calabasas) 39
The key for the Wolverines (26-8) may not have been what happened Saturday but that they were able to get through some difficult opponents to get to Saturday with freshman wonder Cassius Stanley sitting out due to concussion protocols.
Without Stanley, Harvard-Westlake defeated league rival Chaminade of West Hills in the regional quarterfinals 57-47 and then topped Serra of Gardena in the regional semifinals 47-43. With Stanley, they used a strong second half, including a 23-13 edge in the fourth quarter, to win going away.
Stanley led all scorers with 22 points and had nine rebounds. Wolfgang Novogratz added 11 points and nine rebounds.
For Viewpoint (29-7), Christian Juzang got to the foul line frequently and had 17 points to go with eight rebounds. Aram Arslanian did not have as good of a game compared to recent outings and only scored 14 points.
Harvard-Westlake will be going to the CIF state finals for the first time under new head coach David Rebibo. The Wolverines won two state titles under previous head coach Greg Hilliard, who retired after last season.
St. Bernard (Playa del Rey) 67,
Rancho Christian (Temecula) 61
Playing familiar opponents may be good for St. Bernard. The Vikings (19-16) just beat a Rancho Christian squad they played twice earlier in the season to win a regional title and will play a St. Joseph Notre Dame squad in next week’s state final which beat them 47-44 in their last trip to Sacramento in 2011.
In improving to 2-1 vs. Rancho Christian, St. Bernard shot 55 percent in the first half in building a 33-25 advantage. Adam Amanuel was especially hot, going 5-for-5 on 3-pointers and ending with 28 points. Robert Fuller also hit three times from long range and scored 19 points.
Rancho Christian freshman Isaiah Mobley had a strong outing for the Eagles, who ended 23-12. He scored 20 points and had 10 rebounds, three blocks and three assists.