SJM duo lights up California Challenge

Yes, there were two top Division I teams from Northern California who played and lost in Saturday's California Challenge at Lynwood High, but most who were there seemed to be talking more about Antonio Lawrence and Dwain Williams from San Joaquin Memorial of Fresno.

In a game between San Joaquin Memorial and transfer-gutted Dominguez of Compton, Lawrence poured in 38 points and Williams shined with 32 in leading the Panthers to an 80-62 victory.

While Dominguez has been struggling after the departure of key starters Darius Sanders and Bobby Jones, coach Mack Calvin still has some strong players to utilize. But the Dons could not stop Lawrence or Williams. Lawrence, a 6-5 senior who starred for the last three seasons in Jacksonville, Fla., added eight rebounds, five steals and three blocks to go with his points. Williams, a 6-1 freshman who may be one of the best ninth-graders in the nation, made five three-pointers and netted 13 of 14 free throws to help account for his points.

San Joaquin Memorial only improved to 11-5, but Lawrence got a late start after playing well into December as a receiver for the Panthers' football team. The Panthers are Div. IV by their enrollment (not Div. III as was listed in the preseason state rankings) and will no doubt be a leading contender for this year's Div. IV state title (although CIF Central Section rival Garces of Bakersfield will have something to say about that, too.).

In the two later games of the day at the California Challenge, Eisenhower of Rialto and Crenshaw of Los Angeles took care of last year's two NorCal Div. I finalists, Modesto Christian and De La Salle of Concord. Ike beat Modesto Christian, 63-53, despite David Paris scoring 26 points and getting 10 rebounds. Crenshaw downed De La Salle, 58-53, behind Marcus Williams' 17 points and six assists. The scrappy Spartans were in the game until 48 seconds were left when Terrance Jones nailed two free throws for the Cougars. He finished with 15 points.

Despite the two losses and the fact that neither Eisenhower or Crenshaw appears at this time to be in a class with other SoCal Div. I teams like Westchester of Los Angeles, Fremont of Los Angeles or Fairfax of Los Angeles, don't be surprised if De La Salle or Modesto Christian still winds up as the opponent opposite the SoCal Div. I champ in this year's state finals.

Other than Oakland Tech, which is 13-3, no other NorCal Div. I team has emerged as a contender to dethrone Modesto Christian. There are other strong teams in Northern California, but 14-1 Riordan of San Francisco and 15-0 Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco are both Division III.

Speaking of Division III, two-time defending state champ Bishop Montgomery of Torrance was in the first game of Saturday's California Challenge and won easily, 66-26, over Compton. The Knights were supposed to play Washington of Easton in that game, but Washington withdrew. A scheduled game between Inglewood and Redondo of Redondo Beach also was not held.


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