Lynwood wasn't as sharp out of the gate against La Jolla Country Day one night earlier in the nightcap of an event billed as the Y2K2 Shootout hosted by Bishop's School of La Jolla. LJCD, which won last year's Div. V state crown, took a 32-24 lead at halftime. But the Knights stepped up their play in the third quarter, going on a 25-11 run that gave them a 49-43 lead going into the final quarter. They held on for a 62-56 triumph.
Bright knocked down 27 against the Torres, who were led by sophomore All-American Candice Wiggins' 22 points. Both Wiggins and fellow sophomore All-American Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood of Lynwood had their moments in a matchup between the top two freshmen in the state last year.
Lynwood was expected to be among California's top teams this season with such returning standouts as Adams, Bright and Wiley-Gatewood. But with those three creating points on offense and turnovers on defense, the Knights have been even better than that.
After winning the Norco tourney in early December, Lynwood took top honors in the Black Division at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix. The Knights ran past perennial national rankings entrant Oregon City, Ore., in the finals by 56-50. Wiley-Gatewood was named MVP of the tourney after averaging 23.5 ppg, but many others felt Bright was the real sparkplug. She averaged 19.6 ppg and had a game-high 25 against Oregon City.
Coach Ellis Barfield then took his team to the Energy Classic at Gillette, Wyo. Lynwood continued to roll, beating the host school, Campbell County, annually one of the top teams in the intermountain region, by 83-59, in the semis. The Knights faced nationally-ranked Northside of Fort Smith, Ark., in the final and again won easily, 66-52. Bright and Wiley-Gatewood both had 24 points in the title game and in that tourney it was again Wiley-Gatewood who was MVP. She averaged 19.7 points, six steals, 10 rebounds and six assists per game.
And now that the hectic holiday tourney season has concluded, look for Lynwood to be No. 1 or No. 2 in this week's Student Sports FAB 50 national rankings. The only other team that could reasonably be ranked ahead of Lynwood is Ribault of Jacksonville, Fla. Ribault won the more hyped Grey Division title at the Nike TOC in Phoenix and could end the season with a winning streak in the 80s. Ribault downed California powerhouse Narbonne in the semis of that event and took apart Christ The King of New York in the final.
But while Ribault played in the perceived tougher division in Phoenix, it will be Lynwood that will have the more difficult road for the rest of the season. The Knights will be in the Div. I state playoffs in California (where they'd likely meet two-time defending champ Narbonne somewhere down the line) while Ribault competes in one of Florida's lower divisions (and is rarely challenged). You have to think that if a Division I California team like Lynwood runs the table against a schedule like the one it has played so far and will play in the future that it should receive the nod over Ribault.
The only sure thing in the debate is that wouldn't it be fun to see the two somehow play each other? The backcourt matchups, with Ribault's Dorian Williams, a junior who scored 40 against Christ The King, and Lynwood's Wiley-Gatewood, would be worth the price of a ticket alone.