Nike Extravaganza: Muhammad's statement

February, 5, 2012
2/05/12
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Shabazz Muhammad, Bishop GormanScott Kurtz/ESPNHSShabazz Muhammad of Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) had a 41-point performance in the final showcase game of his high school career.
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SANTA ANA, Calif. -- Whitney Young (Chicago) came into its matchup against POWERADE FAB 50 No. 20 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) on Saturday at the Nike Extravaganza without much to lose.

After all, Whitney Young was missing two starters, guard Paul White and center Thomas Hamilton Jr., to injury. The team played a grueling national schedule and limped into the contest as a dangerous 12-7 squad.

Bishop Gorman had its own statement to make. It wanted to prove it was still among the nation's best teams despite four losses. Star player Shabazz Muhammad wanted to make a statement about being the nation's best player despite his recent drop from No. 1 to No. 2 in the ESPNU 100.

Gorman stated its case by capitalizing on a 29-12 third-quarter advantage en route to a 69-50 victory.

Muhammad did the same, converting 13 of 20 shots, including 6-of-6 from 3-point range, and making 9 of 10 free throws in a 41-point performance.

"I have been asked that question thousands of times," said Bishop Gorman coach Grant Rice on Muhammad's new spot in the ESPNU 100. "I don't have the answer, but I know [Muhammad] doesn't need motivation. You guys have seen him for the past two years. He's just trying to get through this season, make his college decision and leave his mark on high school basketball."

Muhammad, the top vote getter in the latest ESPNHS Mr. Basketball USA Tracker, scored Bishop Gorman's first 12 points. When he hit a 3-pointer near the end of the first quarter, he had 15 of the Gaels' 18 points.

Muhammad had 21 points in the first half. He keyed a 10-0 run in the pivotal third quarter with two 3-pointers.

"I am out here to do something regardless," Muhammad said about the player ranking debate. "It doesn't matter if I'm No. 1, No. 2 or No. 100. It's not a sprint, it's a marathon, so we'll see what happens at the end of the day."

Despite Muhammad's hot start and some big shots by his teammates, Whitney Young made some big shots of its own in the second quarter and trailed 31-27 at halftime.

No other player scored in double figures for Bishop Gorman.


Mater Dei leaves no doubt about its billing

If the test of a top 10 FAB 50-ranked team is that, when playing below par, it can still beat a quality opponent that played well, then No. 10 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) passed with flying colors.

Mater Dei's Johnson and Johnson double-double duo was the force primarily responsible for closing out defending California Division III state champion Lutheran (La Verne, Calif.) 71-66 on Saturday at the Nike Extravaganza.

Senior Xavier Johnson led Mater Dei (22-2) with 19 points and 15 rebounds. The 6-foot-7 senior swingman had eight points and eight rebounds in the fourth quarter, with seven of the points coming after Lutheran had closed to 53-52 midway through the final period.

Sophomore Stanley Johnson (no relation), one of the leading candidates for Cal-Hi Sports State Sophomore of the Year, had an outstanding all-around game. He finished with 10 points, 15 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals.

"A big part of that is our depth," said Mater Dei captain Eli Stalzer, who finished with 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting. "All summer we play together and that shows this time of year."

Although Mr. Basketball USA candidate Katin Reinhardt had an off night shooting (5-of-15), he did nail three NBA-range 3-pointers and finished with 17 points. He also had three assists and three steals and played relentless defense.

Mater Dei, the defending Division I state champion, has now won nine consecutive games since a 76-73 overtime loss to No. 19 Gill-St. Bernard (Gladstone, N.J.) in January. Its other loss was also in overtime 86-80 to No. 3 Grace Prep (Arlington, Texas) at the City of Palms Tournament in December. If not for the loss to Gill-St. Bernard, the Monarchs would be in the thick of the chase for the FAB 50 national title.

Eric Cooper Jr. led Lutheran with 21 points. Arizona-bound pivot Grant Jerrett, hobbled by a bad ankle, finished with 7 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocks.


Poly's defense impressive against Orange Lutheran

Talk about two teams going in opposite directions.

FAB 50 No. 22 Poly (Long Beach, Calif.) came in riding a 17-game win streak.

Orange Lutheran (Orange, Calif.) came into Saturday's game struggling, having lost three straight and seven of its past nine. The team got blown out by No. 10 Mater Dei, but played Loyola tough last Saturday night before falling 92-84.

In Saturday's game at the Nike Extravaganza, Poly used its stellar team defense to hold Orange Lutheran to 26 percent (10-of-39) shooting and win its 18th consecutive game 67-45.

"Our staple is defense, and I think we can compete with anyone," Poly coach Sharrief Metoyer said.

Orange Lutheran star guard Gabe York did not make his first field goal until the third quarter to cut Poly's lead to 27-21. He missed all seven of his first-half field goal attempts and had five points at intermission. York finished with a team-high 23 points on 5-of-19 shooting for Orange Lutheran (14-10).

"We put Chris Croom on him, but our five guys on the court were playing together. It wasn't just one guy on York," Metoyer said.

Poly junior forward Roschon Prince continued his hot play of late and finished with 25 points and nine rebounds. An open-court steal and dunk by Prince and his two subsequent conventional 3-point plays in the third quarter helped Poly (21-1) take control of the game. Poly also got a huge lift from junior guard Rueben Strickland, who made 8 of 12 shots and finished with 21 points.


Taft's statement win over Loyola

The first of the four games involving FAB 50 teams Saturday at the Nike Extravaganza saw No. 48 Loyola (Los Angeles) manhandled in a 73-57 defeat at the hands of Cal-Hi Sports state-ranked No. 14 Taft (Woodland, Hills Calif.).

Loyola (20-4) never seemed to get its legs on either end of the court, coming up short on outside shots and failing to box out on defense. As a result, the Cubs were outrebounded 47-28.

The fact Loyola plays in the rugged Mission League that includes FAB 50 No. 47 Alemany (Mission Hills, Calif.) and previously ranked Crespi (Encino, Calif.) and had played five games in eight days, including a 95-81 loss to Alemany, was not something coach Jamal Adams wanted to use as an explanation for his team’s poor play.

“I don’t want to make any excuses,” Adams said. “Taft beat us up. They played to their strengths. Rebounding was a key and we didn’t block out effectively.”

In this game it was Taft, the top-ranked team from the CIF Los Angeles City Section, that looked like it might be knocking on the FAB 50 door.

Taft (22-3) has FAB 50-type talent. The question seems to be if the team can put it all together for a run toward Division I city and state titles.

Anthony January, a powerfully built 6-8 senior forward who did not play in Taft's first seven games, dominated the paint for Taft. He finished with a double-double, 26 points and 16 rebounds. Senior Brandon Perry added his own double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds. The freshest legs on the court belonged to the Toreadors' Kris Yanku. The 6-3 junior guard had 11 points and seven assists.

"At halftime we went up six, but we had unforced turnovers and missed seven free throws," Taft coach Jason Hart said. "After we settled down, we were good to go. A.J. [January] played a smart, complete game."

Jacob Hazzard led Loyola with 19 points and Julian Harrell chipped in with 10 points.

It seems Loyola will drop out of the FAB 50 next week, depending on other results from around the country. It doesn’t mean, however, the squad can't climb back up and in with a deep run into the upcoming CIF Southern Section Div. I-AA playoffs, which will include No. 10 Mater Dei, No. 22 Long Beach Poly and No. 40 Etiwanda (Etiwanda, Calif.).

Ronnie Flores is a senior editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at ronnie.flores@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonFloresESPN

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