Lynwood didn't take the lead for good in its 80-76 triumph over Long Beach Wilson until Janice Bright banked in a running hook shot with 1:08 left. Wilson led by as many as eight points and led on several different occasions in the fourth quarter. A 13-0 run by the Knights to close the third quarter was the key to the up-tempo battle turning in Lynwood's favor. Sophomore sensation Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood led the Knights with 30 points.
Poly was in an equally close game with Ayala, but it was more of a half-court matchup as the Jackrabbits prevailed, 42-40. Ayala might have won, too, if top player Kia Riley had not fouled out with 2:39 left to play. Poly contributed to the closeness of the game as well by missing 14 of 28 free throws. Riley still finished with 16 points for Ayala, while Kameca Simmons led the Jackrabbits with 15.
The fact that Poly has had two close games now in the playoffs (the other was by 44-42 vs. Palmdale) should make Lynwood fans breathe a little easier. But now that Wilson has pushed Lynwood to the brink -- and Wilson is a team Poly has defeated three times -- should give a boost to Poly fans. Either way, Friday's matchup between the two squads could be epic and will have ratings ramifications throughout the country. You can bet the girls at Ribault High of Jacksonville, Fla., will be rooting for Poly, since they are now No. 2 in the nation. But those same girls also better root for Poly to lose somewhere down the road, too, because if the Jackrabbits beat Lynwood and then go on to win a California Div. I state title with an unbeaten record a strong case can be made for them to be No. 1 nationally, no matter what Ribault does in its weak Florida divisional playoffs.
A section-by-section rundown of Tuesday playoff games follows (remember, none of these results are reflected in the rankings that were compiled earlier this week):
Carlsbad (26-4) and El Camino (26-4) both won in Div. I boys semifinal matchups and will meet Friday at San Diego State's Cox Arena. Carlsbad rallied from a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter and defeated Torrey Pines, 58-57. Greg Nelson and Derek Stockalper sparked the rally and finished with 20 and 16 points, respectively. El Camino won the less-anticipated semi, 72-65, over La Costa Canyon. The Wildcats were led by sophomore Justin Armstrong's 26 points and 17 rebounds. Mikel Watson, a junior who usually leads them in scoring, added 13. El Camino is loaded with other underclassmen and should be a top 10 team in the state for next year. The Wildcats' biggest win so far this season has been against South Medford, Oregon, which went 23-1 in the regular season and lost its only game to the California team. South Medford also is among the favorites to win the Class 4A state title in Oregon.
Also in San Diego, the section's highest rated team, Horizon, rolled on in Div. IV play with a 78-59 win over Bishop's of La Jolla. Horizon should receive a much tougher test in Friday's final against Lincoln (21-6). It's hard to believe that Lincoln standout Shaun Davis is still just a junior as he's been a top player in the section since his freshman season. Helix (25-3) and Escondido are playing on Friday in the Div. II section final, Kearny (15-13) and St. Augustine (15-14) are meeting in Div. III, and Santa Fe Christian (21-8) and La Jolla Country Day are playing in Div. V. Jim Hooper of Lutheran had 44 points Tuesday in his team's 67-58 loss to La Jolla Country Day. It's safe to say that whoever wins in the Div. III final will be seeded No. 4 in the south regionals and that whoever loses will be seeded No. 8.
All of the San Diego Section's girls semifinal games are scheduled for Wednesday and all of the finals will be on Saturday. All the title games will be played at Cox Arena.
Some thought the Long Beach Poly boys were going to be severely tested in their Div. I-AA matchup against Capistrano Valley. But it was no problem for coach Ron Palmer's squad as it thoroughly wore down the Cougars in posting a 68-44 triumph. Poly will play Eisenhower of Rialto, as expected, in the title game on Saturday at The Pond. Ike won its semifinal, 64-44, over Millikan of Long Beach. In the Div. I-A semis on Tuesday, Loyola of Los Angeles and Thousand Oaks were the winners. For Loyola, Omar Wilkes shined again with 24 points in a 81-60 win over Canyon of Anaheim. For Thousand Oaks, football buddies Ben Olson and Dave Anderson revved up for 27 and 18 points, respectively, as the Lancers downed Glendora, 74-60. No word on whether Glendora coach Mike LeDuc compared Ben's game to former Glendora standout Casey Jacobsen.
Also in the Southern Section, the only game that you could call a surprise of any kind was Pasadena's 63-49 triumph over Inglewood in the Div. II-AA semifinals. This was surprising only due to the way in which Inglewood crushed Villa Park in its previous game. The Sentinels also won their last league game over Redondo. Now it appears that Inglewood was just an up-and-down team that essentially fell back down when it faced Pasadena. The winning Bulldogs, who were led by Dino Wilburn's 21 points, will play Mater Dei in Saturday's title game. The Monarchs gave up 32 points and 12 rebounds to Gio St. Amant, but still didn't have much of a problem in beating St. John Bosco of Bellflower, 69-55. Wesley Washington had 20 points and 11 rebounds to lead Mater Dei. The section's Div. II-A title game matchup between Redondo and M.L. King of Riverside was determined last weekend.
The Southern Section's Div. III boys finals also were set up last weekend, but in Div. IV-AA on Tuesday it was El Segundo and Harvard-Westlake which won in semifinal matchups. El Segundo defeated Twentynine Palms, 78-56, while Harvard-Westlake survived a 41-point outburst from Justin Turman and downed Daniel Murphy, 66-61. Ribet Academy and Rolling Hills Prep both won in Div. V-AA semis and will meet in Friday's final at Loyola Marymount.
Other than the Div. I-AA girls results highlighted above, the Southern Section playoffs on Tuesday also had San Clemente and Hart of Newhall both advancing in Div. I-A while St. Bernard of Playa del Rey and St. Paul of Santa Fe Springs moved on in Div. IV-AA. All-stater Alexis Kendricks had 27 for St. Bernard in its 55-43 win over Orange Lutheran. Crystal Erwin, also an all-state type player, had 25 points and 13 rebounds for St. Paul in its 59-50 victory vs. Calvary Chapel of Santa Ana.
Both the boys final involving Westchester vs. Fairfax and the girls final matching up Narbonne and Chatsworth will be held Saturday at the Forum in Inglewood. Whoever wins between Westchester and Fairfax also will very likely be seeded No. 1 in the south regional playoffs. Whoever loses will hit the road and might have to go as far as Fresno for a first-round game. The Narbonne girls are heavily favored in their game and will likely earn the No. 2 seed in the south regional playoffs, behind either Lynwood or L.B. Poly.
Many of the section title games will be Thursday at Centennial Gardens in downtown Bakersfield. The 12,000-seat venue could become a major player on the statewide scene in upcoming months. A 16-team basketball tourney will be held there in December and it probably won't be long until the CIF moves its state wrestling tourney there.
Boys scores from Tuesday included: (Div. I) Clovis West 63, Bakersfield 45; Clovis 81, Redwood of Visalia 71; (Div. II) Stockdale of Bakersfield 57, Edison 52; Hoover of Fresno 56, Hanford 53; (Div. III) Washington 75, Wasco 43; (Div. IV) Garces 85, Caruthers 39; S.J. Memorial 67, Lindsay 53; (Div. V) Immanuel 67, Fresno Christian 52. All of the girls semifinals are scheduled for Wednesday. Antonio Lawrence of Memorial had the most noteworthy individual performance with 31 points and 11 rebounds in his team's win over Lindsay.
There will be no repeat for Jayson Obazuaye and the Andrew Hill of San Jose boys basketball team in the Div. I playoffs. The Falcons were eliminated in the semifinals on Tuesday night, 60-45, by Serra of San Mateo. Obazuaye finished with 26 points, but a 8-0 run by Serra with about three minutes left sealed the win. Serra will play Oak Grove in Friday's title game at Santa Clara's Leavey Center. The Eagles defeated Piedmont Hills, 61-40. Eastside Prep and Woodside Priory both won in Div. V semis on Tuesday. The other divisional semis are set for Wednesday.
In the CCS Div. I girls playoffs, Mitty set up its bid for a 10th consecutive section title with an easy 83-40 romp over North Salinas. The Monarchs also will be going for their 16th section title overall, which is more than any other girls program in state history. Mitty will play St. Ignatius in the final. The Wildcats won by 62-46 on Tuesday over Aptos behind Katie Meinhardt's 27 points. Redwood Christian and Eastiside Prep also won on Tuesday and made it into Friday's final. The other girls divisional semis are set for Wednesday.
A scheduled Div. III boys playoff game between Kennedy of Richmond and Las Lomas of Walnut Creek was cancelled on Tuesday night after a drive-by shooting near the Kennedy campus. School officials thought the shooting, which did not involve Kennedy students, was too close to the gym and thought the game should be rescheduled and moved to Las Lomas for Wednesday due to safety concerns.
The only state-ranked teams that were in action on Tuesday were the De La Salle and St. Mary's of Berkeley boys. Both won easily and advanced to semifinal matchups. St. Mary's is playing Bishop O'Dowd of Oakland, which won in perhaps the state's most thrilling finish on Tuesday. The Dragons nipped Berkeley, 50-49, when Johnnie Bryant drove the length of the floor and banked in a layup with just three seconds left.
The North Coast is still the only section in the state that crams all of its playoffs into one week. This creates nightmarish scheduling problems for coaches and fans, not to mention sportswriters. It is possible there will be teams tipping off in semifinal games on Friday night up in Arcata who will then have to high-tail it in six-hour bus rides back down to the East Bay for Saturday afternoon title games. Why this section's Board of Managers continues to make its athletes and coaches adhere to such a ridiculous schedule is hard to understand, especially when the rest of the state's section playoffs are conducted on a much more reasonable timetable.
Most of the section's top teams will play games at home on Wednesday, with semifinals and Friday and finals on Saturday. One good move the section made was for the finals in the top three divisions to be played at the University of California's Haas Pavilion.
The AAA playoffs are always a little crazy since the champion could come from any of the four enrollment divisions and therefore forces one of the other sections in the north regional playoffs to give up one of its second-place teams. In the boys, defending champ McAteer is still the choice and plays in the semis on Wednesday. McAteer is Div. III by enrollment, but the Northern Section will likely have a No. 2 team with a losing record so all you second-place finishers in the Sac-Joaquin, North Coast and CCS shouldn't worry about moving on to next week. The girls finalists were determined Tuesday and they are Washington and Lowell. Both are Div. I schools, so the NorCal girls bracket for Div. I will include a San Francisco entry this year.
The OAL's automatic entry into the northern regional playoffs is always for Div. I and will be determined this weekend. It will be very surprising if either the Oakland Tech boys or Oakland girls are denied and both have to be beaten twice. Tech's boys also are likely to earn the north's top seed.
Here's a scenario of horror that must have creeped into the thoughts of section commissioner Pete Saco at some point in the last few months. The Modesto Christian boys, a team his office has been at legal odds with for some time, lose in the section finals in a close game and due to results in other sections (for example, a San Francisco Div. I team winning or a big upset in another section) the Crusaders then have to depend on Saco arguing for them to be given an at-large bid into the regional playoffs. Note for Pete: Modesto Christian has a win this year over Denver East, currently the No. 1 -ranked team in Colorado.
Modesto Christian was one of four teams that won on Tuesday in the Div. I boys quarterfinals. Also advancing was top-seeded Sheldon of Sacramento, Vallejo and Lodi. Vallejo sophomore DeMarcus Nelson put on a show in his team's 75-64 win over Modesto as he scored 38 points. The Modesto Christian girls, who are in Div. V, also moved on with a 62-45 win over Forest Lake Christian.
This section also can tend to screw up the pairings in the Div. I north regionals since you never know if there will be a Div. I team that can be entered. This year, there's no suspense as the Pleasant Valley girls and Pleasant Valley boys have strong records. Both are playing in the section Div. I-II finals this weekend at Chico State. If the PV girls win, it's also probable they'll get seeded first in the regionals due to an early-season win over Berkeley.
In Tuesday games, Liberty of Redding improved to 27-1 with a 62-53 win over Pierce in the Div. V boys semis. Joe Maikranz scored 22 to lead Liberty, which will likely play Div. V state-ranked Capital Christian in the finals. In girls Div. V, Etna and Fall River both won and will play in the title game on Friday at Chico State. Other teams that are top-seeded and still playing include Enterprise of Redding boys (D3), Wheatland boys (D4), Enterprise girls (D3) and Gridley girls (D4). Even if Foothill of Redding loses to Pleasant Valley in the Div I-II girls final and even if Shasta loses to PV in the Div. I-II boys final, both Foothill and Shasta get to move on in the northern regional playoffs as the section's top Div. II teams.