It’s Deja Vu For Compton At State
Compton, Centennial Gets Second Chance In Regional Finals
It seems longer than two years ago when Compton was the center of the basketball hoopla in Southern California.
DeMar DeRozan was a highflying All-American phenomenon for Compton who became the biggest non-Dominguez HS recruit since Arron Afflalo at Centennial. Dominguez returned to the top of the hoop world after defeating four Top 10 teams in the state’s final poll en route to a Southern Section title and Division I state championship appearance.
It was the last time two teams from the Hub City competed for supremacy and it will happen again on Saturday when Compton and Centennial will compete for the Division II and III Southern California state regional championship at the Galen Center at USC.
“It means a lot not just for the school but for the school district of Compton with everything that happened with Dominguez. We’re honored to be here,” Centennial senior forward Kurt Davis said.
The return of Dominguez in 2008 was followed by a severe fall in 2009. Senior-to-be Jordan Hamilton was declared ineligible before the season and head coach Russell Otis was fired after being charged with misdemeanor child molestation, felony theft and forgery and meeting with a minor for lewd purpose.
With no Otis or Hamilton, the Dons fell from the ranks of the state’s elite and Otis’ trial and sentencing this past January put a black eye on not just the school but the district after rehiring Otis after his 2002 trial for similar charges.
For both schools, it’s not just about making their own name – it’s about giving their city a better one.
Centennial’s having its best season since current Denver Nuggets guard Arron Afflalo led the Apaches to the Division III state title in 2004. Just like Afflalo, senior guard Deonte Burton is leading the way with his ability to make plays when his team needs them.
Burton, one of the top unsigned players in the state, had 34 points and 11 rebounds in the Apaches’ 83-77 win over Gahr in the semifinals. But he’s had help in the postseason from fellow seniors Kevin Smith and Kurt Davis.
Smith scored 23 points and 15 rebounds in the Apaches’ narrow 62-58 loss to Gardena Serra in the CIF Division III-A final, showing why he’s one of the more underrated athletes in the region.
“He always plays hard no matter what,” Centennial coach Vadim Malikin said.
Davis had 15 points against Gahr while spending most of the game guarding their speedy point guard Ervin Ware. And now they’ll have the chance for revenge against Serra in the Division III final.
“We just have to come out and give a better effort,” Davis said.
As for Compton, they haven’t been this far since 1998, losing in the Division II state regional to Rancho Santa Margarita. But after losing in the CIF Division II-A Final two weeks ago, they regrouped for a surprising run in the regionals.
The Tarbabes traveled to No. 4 seed San Diego Hoover and upset them in the second round. In the semifinals against defending Division II state champion and No. 1 seed Rialto Eisenhower – who defeated them 69-48 in December at the MaxPreps Holiday Classic – they won in Rialto 64-61.
It’s a run that has them at the Galen Center against the No. 2 seed San Diego Lincoln – now ranked No. 14 in the Cal-Hi state rankings.
For the first time since 2004, two teams from the Hub City will be in the regional finals. And there will be a reminder of Dominguez’ former glory in Kevin Smith and Mater Dei guard Keala King, both of whom played on that 2008 squad
Here’s a bit of good fortune for both teams. Centennial and Dominguez both won their regional finals in 2004 and went on to win state…
Saturday’s games at the Galen Center have everything a basketball fan could want, capping off with a meeting between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the state in prime time (Mater Dei and Westchester in the Division I final at 8 p.m.)
It’s been four years since the schools met and I won’t be surprised if the Galen Center is sold out by the time Long Beach Poly and Fresno Clovis meet in the Division I girls final at 6.
Many have criticized Mater Dei in recent years for not playing enough competition from the City Section and after surviving Taft 75-73 in the semifinals; it’s time to see how they handle Westchester and their balance.
In addition to Serra-Centennial, there are rematches throughout the day, as Inglewood takes on Bishop Amat in the Division III girls final at 10 a.m. The two met in the sectional semifinals and the Sentinels won in dominating fashion 63-48.
Keep an eye on junior DeAjanae Scurry. Scurry had her best game of the season in the Sentinel’s regional semifinal win over San Diego Mt. Miguel with 35 points and 15 rebounds.