The boys’ basketball team at Long Beach Poly probably ranks fourth in importance behind their football, track and girls’ basketball programs, but after winning the Nike Fairfax Summer Basketball Classic, they proved they can compete with anyone.
In an exciting finish to the tournament, Poly upset Division II state champion Mater Dei 82-81 on a late basket with five seconds left.
“Anytime you can beat Mater Dei in any event, it’s a big win for us. Our kids played their hearts out and I’m very proud of the way they played.” Poly Coach Sharrief Metoyer said.
With 24 seconds left, Andy Brown missed the second of two free throws and when David Wear missed the putback, Poly got the rebound. On their final possession, senior guard Michael Dugan scored on his second attempt after his first was blocked.
“I was waiting for [junior guard] Mike (Mayes) to pass me the ball,” Dugan said. “Luckily, he passed me the ball and I scored it.”
Poly, who went 18-11 last season, used their sharp perimeter game to combat the inside presence of 6-foot-8 Brown and the 6-foot-10 Wear twins, David and Travis. The Jackrabbits nailed 13 3-pointers and five players scored in double figures led by senior Terrance Reeves (22 points).
Although it wasn’t the regular season, they can take pride in beating a state champion in Mater Dei and a state regional finalist in Westchester on Saturday.
“When you play together, you can beat anybody and our kids are showing that so hopefully we can do this when the season rolls around,” said Metoyer.
Mater Dei was led in scoring by Brown (22 points) and David Wear (20 points). Despite the loss, their all-junior frontcourt will be one of the most imposing in the state as teams will find it difficult to score inside against the Monarchs
In the 4:00 p.m. third-place game, Fairfax and Westchester met up for the fifth time in the last seven months. After leading 40-38 at the half, the Lions roared to a 15-2 run and held off their rivals for 80-67 victory.
“We’re a better team than we were a week ago. We’re so young that the more you play, the more you learn,” Fairfax Coach Harvey Kitani said of his team that only features two seniors.
Westchester was without injured seniors Oscar Bellfield and Jarred Dubois for the tournament but sophomore Dwayne Polee led the way with 19 points against Fairfax. Polee had 25 points against Pasadena on Day 3 as he looks much improved from his freshman campaign.
In other notes from the tournament, one of the best games happened on Day 3 between Campbell Hall and Harvard Westlake. The leading players stepped up big as Jrue Holiday, in his first summer action with Campbell Hall, poured in 40 points while Renaldo Woolridge scored 29 - 22 in the second half - for Harvard Westlake.
Harvard Westlake won the game 99-89 due to a late run to pull away but both of these teams played close the whole way. In a brief glimpse, Holiday proved why he is a Top 10 national prospect while Woolridge staked his claim as a player to watch in the local class of 2008.
Pasadena looks just as deadly as last season. Senior Keion Bell, a transfer from Serra had 16 points against Taft on Day 5 and junior guard Darius Johnson scored 23 against Fairfax on Day 4. Johnson is one of several underclassmen who will make the Bulldogs a threat to repeat as Southern Section champions.
Although rising senior Larry Drew and junior Justin Hawkins were away at camps, Taft gave Mater Dei a scare on Day 4 with strong post play from All-City forward Eugene Phelps and rising junior Terran Carter. After missing the playoffs last year due to recruiting violations, Taft will be a strong, balanced contender in the City when the season starts.
“Top to bottom, we had a good field,” Kitani said, “The semifinals and the championship game was as good as it gets in the summer.”
Fans who attended the tournament definitely received a treat as they caught a glimpse of some of the best basketball the summer has to offer.