Westchester 53, Riverside King 39 (Division I boys)
Only one thing stands between Westchester and their fifth state title – a date with defending Division I state champion Oakland McClymonds.
The Comets won their sixth regional championship – and first since 2005 – after holding King to the lowest point total in a Southern California Division I regional final.
Westchester and King were ranked by Cal-Hi Sports as No. 1 and 2 in the state, respectively, but it was clear who was the dominant force as the Comets raced out to an early 10-1 lead and never looked back.
For the first time all season, they utilized a 2-3 zone defense – a departure from their traditional man-to-man scheme. It worked as they clogged the middle and out-rebounded King 35-27, taking away one of King’s strengths.
“We don’t practice much zone but we did a really good job in it and took away some easy shots,” Westchester Coach Ed Azzam said.
King got off to a bad start when J.J. Campbell received a technical for dunking during pregame warm-ups. Things got worse when Coach Tim Sweeney Jr. received one in the second for arguing a call and he was later ejected at the end of the third quarter.
“[The pre-game technical] seemed to deflate them early in the game, which is a little unusual, but I think it had more to do with our defense than anything,” Azzam said.
It was that kind of a night as they shot 25.6 percent from the floor (11-for-43), including 4-of-19 on three-pointers. Outside of San Diego St.-bound forward Kawhi Leonard (16 points and 12 rebounds), no Wolves player had more than five points or seven rebounds.
Meanwhile Westchester was paced by senior guard Dominique O’Connor, who had 14 points, five rebounds and four assists. Jordan Mayes chipped with 12 and Dwayne Polee had 11 and nine rebounds.
It’s fitting that one of the state’s deepest teams survived the Division I bracket. They benefitted from Oceanside El Camino beating Etiwanda, giving them an easier quarterfinal match than King or Fairfax and a chance to rest their starters.
Their final test will be in McClymonds, who will rise to No. 2 in the Cal-Hi Sports rankings next week after defeating Monte Vista 46-43, is 61-1 over the last two seasons but the Comets aren’t rattled at the prospect of facing another top opponent.
“It’s nothing we’re not used to. If we just play Westchester basketball, it won’t be hard,” O’Connor said.
Long Beach Poly 67, Ontario Colony 54 (Division I Girls)
Before he addressed his team’s fourth consecutive Southern California Division I regional championship, Long Beach Poly coach Carl Buggs had something to get off his chest.
“I want to apologize to the city of Long Beach, our community and basketball fans for that ugly-looking game,” Buggs said.
The sentiments were appreciated by many as the teams combined for 84 turnovers in a game that resembled a junior varsity scrimmage instead of two teams fighting for a berth in the state final.
It was harder to tell what was more shocking: Colony leading 25-21 at halftime or both teams combining for more turnovers (49) than points (46). Poly’s guards, instead of passing against Colony’s press, ran headfirst into it which led to either a Colony fastbreak
The game remained close until Poly sealed the deal by going went on an 8-2 run midway through that finally put some distance between them and Colony. A critical three-pointer by senior forward Kelli Thompson proved the springboard that finally sent the Jackrabbits back to Sacramento.
Buggs admitted that with a young team that started four underclassmen, it’s not necessarily that they don’t have the experience of teams past, but rather maturity. Thompson added on that when she discussed the impact of Poly turning the ball over.
“Turnovers hurt us more than it helps them because when we do it, we get down on ourselves,” Thompson said.
The Jackrabbits have also battled their share of injuries as Thompson was still gathering her rhythm after missing 6-8 weeks with a broken hand.
“This is our third game with everyone healthy so we’re just trying to find our groove with everyone,” Buggs said.
Junior guard Brittany Wilson and sophomore guard Ariya Crook-Williams led Poly with 16 points each and both also contributed on the defensive end with nine combined steals.
Bishop Montgomery 85, Price 82 (Division IV Boys)
Senior guard Michael Panaggio hit a game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer in double overtime to give Bishop Montgomery their first regional championship since 2000 as they defeated Price in the Southern California Division IV regional final at Cal State Fullerton.
Justin Cobbs led the Knights with 31 points and junior Richard Solomon chipped in with 18 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. Panaggio finished with 14 and seven assists.
Price was led by junior guard Allen Cribbe, who had 26 points and 13 rebounds and senior Kelvin Smith (22 points and 10 rebounds).
Eisenhower 68, Loyola 62 (Division II Boys)
Loyola got their rematch against Eisenhower (Rialto) on Saturday but unfortunately they met the same fate as the first meeting in the Division II-A final a week ago– six points short of victory in the Southern California Division II state regional final.
The Cubs fell short to Eisenhower despite 34 points from 6-9 senior forward Carl Hoffman, who set a Southern California Div. II regional record with 16 field goals. They were ice cold from the 3-point line (0-for-16), a surprise number considering they’ve averaged 40 percent on the year.
“We shoot as good as anyone but I don’t know if we’ve ever been off like that,” Loyola coach Jamal Adams said.
Junior guard Miles Cartwright, who scored 32 in the previous meeting, was held to just nine points on 4-for-14 shooting as he faced extra pressure most of the night.
Adams added that playing in Pauley Pavilion was “a different feel” than what they were used to but he also credited Eisenhower, who doesn’t have a player taller than 6-4, for attacking the ball and forcing 21 turnovers.
“They are as tenacious defensively as anyone in the country,” Adams said.
Eagles guard Andrew Bock followed up his 29-point performance a week ago with 21 points and eight rebounds on Saturday. The Creighton-bound senior had 13 points in the second half.
“He’s the best player we’ve played all year,” Cartwright said.
The Eagles made history as the first team from San Bernardino County to reach the CIF state finals but that’s no consolation to Loyola, who fell short in their first attempt to reach state.
Division II Girls – Brea Olinda 44, Mater Dei 38
Division III Boys – Ocean View 79, Harvard Westlake 63
Division IV Girls – Mater Dei Cathedral (San Diego) 54, The Bishop’s School 51
Division V Boys – Windward 52, Pacific Hills 40
Division V Girls – Bell Jeff 61, View Park Prep 49