Here are Day 2 notes from the 22nd Annual Torrey Pines Holiday Classic in San Diego, Calif., Dec. 27-30.
Recollections of DeMatha's first venture West
SAN DIEGO -- In the marquee matchup of the National Division opening round, DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.) took on Lincoln (San Diego, Calif.) in a game that had a semifinal feel to it.
DeMatha, ranked No. 10 in the latest POWERADE FAB 50, is arguably the nation's most recognizable high school program. They have been a national power since Morgan Wootten, the predecessor to current coach Mike Jones, won the first of his four mythical national titles in 1962. Lincoln won a CIF Division II state title two years ago, has not lost to a team from San Diego County since the 2008-09 season and has a large, boisterous fan base.
That combination created an electric atmosphere as DeMatha rode a big performance for junior BeeJay Anya (21 points, 14 rebounds) to a 59-48 victory. On Wednesday night, the Stags cruised to a 83-47 quarterfinal win over Mayfair (Lakewood, Calif.) to improve to 7-0 on the season. They will take on 20o9 National Division runner-up Newark Memorial (Newark, Calif.) in one Thursday evening semifinal after the Cougars defeated St. Bernard (Playa del Rey, Calif.), 57-49, in their quarterfinal game.
As exciting as the DeMatha-Lincoln game may have been, the atmosphere, according to Jones, was not quite on par in comparison to DeMatha's first California road trip during the 1990-91 season in Jones' junior year.
"I think it was even more electric because we played Artesia (Lakewood, Calif.) on their home floor," Jones said. "They had a good team and I think we won by four or six. I remember it was fun; I had a good time."
That season Wootten's Stags were supposed to participate in an event called the Fiesta Bowl Tournament in Tempe, Ariz. The event, however, ran into financial difficulties that led DeMatha to a replacement tournament in California called the Gold Coast Artesia Classic, a five-team round robin event at Artesia.
DeMatha handily defeated a San Pasqual (Escondido, Calif.) team that featured future Duke forward Erik Meek and defeated the host Pioneers by six points.
Artesia had a young team led by three high-major sophomores (Charles O’Bannon, Avondre Jones, James Cotton). DeMatha also had an underclass-dominated team led by guard Duane Simpkins (Maryland) and Jones, a 6-foot-4 wing who matriculated to George Washington University.
Over twenty years later, it's amazing the images Jones' memory conjures up.
"I remember getting dunked on while taking a charge," Jones said. "I made the play I was supposed to."
That season, Jones averaged 17.7 points and 5.7 rebounds and helped the Stags to a 30-0 record and No. 5 final national rating. In fact, the program went 75-0, the only time the DeMatha program went unbeaten for a season.
Lance Booker seasoned tournament veteran
When St. Bernard (Playa del Rey, Calif.) senior guard Lance Booker takes the floor at Torrey Pines High School, only players from the host Falcons are more at home on the court.
That's because this is Booker's third consecutive year playing in the Holiday Classic -- and he's playing with his third different team.
Two years ago, he was a pint-sized reserve guard on a Leuzinger (Lawndale, Calif.) team that won the school's first-ever CIF Southern Section title. As a junior, he played at Crenshaw (Los Angeles) and is now reunited with Reggie Morris, Jr., his former coach at Leuzinger who is now in his second year at St. Bernard.
"When I was at Leuzinger, I really loved playing for (Morris)," said Booker, who led his team to a 68-61 opening round win over Houston St. Thomas (Houston) by making all eight of his free throws and scoring 16 points. "If I would have followed him to St. Bernard, I would have had to sit out, but now I'm with him again."
Booker's high school journey has taken him from a modestly measured 5-foot-3 contributor at a large public school to a full-grown leader at a smaller parochial school. He's learned plenty about the game along the way, including how to deal with the trash talk that comes his way regarding his small frame. In fact, he has experience that players with more size, and perhaps even skill, would envy.
So does he still get ribbed about his size? Despite growing about six inches over the past two years, Booker's answer isn't surprising.
"Man, all the time. I play with a chip on my shoulder. I always feel like I have something to prove."
For the third consecutive season, "LB-Gwap" (as he referred to by teammates) knows his exact role on the team.
"When I came into St. Bernard, I already knew we were going to have a young team. I am trying to set an example for the younger guys."
"Lance is very familiar with the system we run," Morris Jr. said. "He brings another dimension with his ball-handling and outside shooting, plus he knows everything we're trying to do.
"He's definitely one of my leaders. He sets the barometer with his energy and he gets after it defensively."
Back in the game
Matt Shrigley of La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.), bound for Steve Fisher's program at San Diego State, did not play in Monday's special tip off games at Torrey Pines. It didn't matter much for the Mavericks, who improved their record to 10-1 with a 59-39 victory over Poway (Poway, Calif.).
Shrigley reportedly was nursing a sore ankle. He suited up for the Mavericks' Tuesday night American Division opener against Folsom (Folsom, Calif.) at LCC's gym.
La Costa Canyon traditionally hosts the American Division bracket and thus does not compete in the top National Division. The Mavericks are currently ranked No. 20 in the FAB 50 West Region rankings and No. 13 in the Cal-Hi Sports state top 20, so it would be interesting to see how they would fare against the top competition the National Division has to offer.
The Mavericks, who have lost only to National Division contender Taft (Woodland Hills, Calif.) so far this season, opened with a 71-50 victory over Folsom (Folsom, Calif.). Shrigley led all scorers with 15 points. On Wednesday night, he was at it again, netting 28 points in La Costa Canyon's 69-58 quarterfinal victory over Chino Hills (Chino, Calif.).
Pac-12 bound guard shines
College basketball fans in the San Diego area got a glimpse of a future Pac-12 guard in the form of 6-foot-4 Christian Sanders of Houston St. Thomas (Houston).
The Stanford-bound Sanders netted a team-high 21 points in his team's 68-61 loss to St. Bernard (Playa del Rey, Calif.). He came back with a better performance in the loser's bracket on Wednesday afternoon, leading Houston St. Thomas to a 64-53 win over La Verne Lutheran (La Verne, Calif.).
Sanders dropped in 29 points, as La Verne Lutheran dropped its second consecutive game at the Holiday Classic. Ranked in the FAB 50 to begin the season, Lutheran's performances are the most disappointing among the highly regarded teams thus far.