EYES ON A SURPRISE:Â Washington Prep guard Scott Michaelyn
(18.8 points, 2.7 steals) is a big factor in the Generals earning the
No. 4 seed in the City playoffs but it’s been their swarming team
defense that makes them a wild card.
All eyes on Washington Prep as City sleeper.
By Evan Barnes
Sentinel Sports Editor
Most fans probably missed the biggest upset of the high school basketball season – Washington Prep defeating Price last week in their second-to-last game of the season.
Price is a Top 10 ranked team in the state, the most overwhelming favorite to win a CIF and state title and had only lost to fellow Top-10 squads Newark Memorial and Gardena Serra.
Washington Prepâ€™s biggest win outside of their league might be a forfeit win over Sylmar, although they have narrow losses to Crenshaw, Leuzinger and Windward by a combined 10 points.
Yet itâ€™s that win that shows why the Generals as the No. 4 seed in the City Section Division I playoffs might be the sleeper team to watch out for.
â€œBeating Price was one of our goals this season so that we could be playoff ready for the City. And now we feel weâ€™re ready,â€ Washington head coach Leonard Johnson said after the team defeated Banning to end the season.
A City Section coach remarked that the Generals (20-6) are the sleeper team in the City and given that they play a frenetic four quarters of basketball, teams should be concerned. They are aggressive on defense and force teams out of their rhythm.
â€œOur motto is No D, No Play,â€ Johnson said, â€œWe give teams different looks so they have to change their game plan.
Five players, led by leading scorer Scott Michaelyn, average 1.5 steals or higher. Michaelyn averages nearly three steals to go along with his 18.8 points per game.
Itâ€™s almost like watching controlled chaos but for teams not used to seeing a team play all-out for 32 minutes, it could be their biggest asset given that teams have a strict game plan come playoff time.
The previous two seasons, the Generals had a No. 7 and No. 6 seed. With their highest seed in recent memory, Johnson said it has brought out alumni support and given positive light to a school thatâ€™s earned its share of bad press the past few years.
In the City, the No. 4 seed is important because whoever reaches the semifinals gets a spot in the state regional tournament. After they open against Garfield on Friday, the Generals potentially have a second-round date with longtime City power Fairfax.
Looming in the distance is a potential meeting with No. 1 seed Westchester in the finals but Johnson said his team is only concerned about one thing.
â€œIf we focus on what we have to do, weâ€™ll be fine,â€ he said.
And after beating Price, theyâ€™re confident they can beat anybody â€“ something that the top dogs in the City need to be aware of.
Looking at the rest of the City boys bracket, it went true to form. Westchester and Taft got the top two seeds and itâ€™s all but certain theyâ€™ll meet up in a rematch on March 6 at USCâ€™s Galen Center.
Of those two, Taft could possibly have the tougher road with a possible date with Crenshaw in the semifinals. Itâ€™ll be a rematch of their meeting last year and afterwards Taft head coach Derrick Taylor remarked that the Cougars would be better this year.
With the semifinals on a neutral court, that game will be a must-see.
The best first-round game might be Fremont at L.A. Jordan in an 8-9 matchup. There is speculation that longtime Fremont head coach Sam Sullivan could step down after the playoffs so this could be the last hurrah for one of the Cityâ€™s best coaches.
But nobody should be surprised if Westchester and Taft are the last two standing. This is the matchup everyone expected after a mostly one-sided win by the Comets in December, the City final will be a closer affair.
View Park Prep will go for their third consecutive Small Schools championship and as the No. 1 seed in the bracket they will face Fulton Prep Friday.
On the girlsâ€™ side, itâ€™s all about the Marine League as Washington, Carson and Narbonne claimed the No. 2-4 seeds in the Division I bracket. All three are heavy favorites to join No. 1 seed Taft in the semifinals.
Unlike in previous years, the championship is up for grabs as there is no dominant team like Chatsworth last year or Narbonne two years ago. In fact, the best team in the City may be Small Schools No. 1 seed View Park Prep.
Taft ended the season with two losses in league. Washington may be the hottest team but has one loss to the other three teams. Narbonne defeated Carson last week and in their first meeting lost by only one.
Itâ€™s perhaps the most unpredictable bracket in the City and my prediction will be Washington and â€“ in an upset â€“ Narbonne in the City finals.