High-SchoolBoys-Basketball: Torrey Pines Holiday Classic

Holiday Classic update: No. 16 Mitty upset

December, 29, 2011
12/29/11
3:34
AM ET
Related: Quicks Shots Day 1 | Quick Shots Day 2

SAN DIEGO -- After a disappointing third-place finish last week at its own tournament, Windward (Los Angeles) knew it was a better team than the 5-4 record it brought to the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic National Division.

Before the tourney began, the Wildcats weren't yet clicking on all cylinders as junior guard Charles Dawson was returning from football and a couple of key contributors were nursing injuries.

But on Wednesday it all came together for Windward, who rode a big performance from Jordan Wilson to upset POWERADE FAB 50 No. 16 Mitty (San Jose, Calif.) in overtime 73-71.

Windward head coach Miguel Villegas called the victory the biggest in school history for a non-championship game. The National Division quarterfinal game was a matchup of defending CIF state champions.

Windward (7-4), last year's Division IV champ, led 50-41 entering the fourth quarter before Mitty (6-1) cut the deficit by using standout 6-foot-8 junior forward Aaron Gordon at point guard to initiate offense. The defending Division II champs had trouble finding Gordon underneath during the first three quarters, but he scored eight consecutive points to cut Windward's lead to a single point (55-54) with 3:18 remaining in the game.

Mitty eventually took the lead with just under three minutes remaining and the teams went back and forth until Thomas Peters gave Mitty a 64-61 lead by canning two free throws with 8.8 seconds remaining.

That's when Wilson, a junior guard, took over.

He banked in a straightaway 3-pointer with less than a second remaining to send the game into overtime. In overtime, Wilson sealed the game with his penetration and his teammates did their job from the free throw line.

With under a minute remaining in the extra period, Wilson sliced two defenders, including Gordon, and converted a jack knife lay-up to give his team a 71-68 lead. Gordon then made one of two free throws, but Wilson sealed the game with an uncontested lay-up with less than 10 seconds remaining.

"When we lost the lead I was thinking, 'not again,"' said Wilson, who finished with 20 points. "I decided to take the game into my hands. I trust my teammates and I didn't want to lose this game."

Windward forward Nick Stover, a LMU recruit, led all scorers with 23 points, including nine-of-11 free throws.

Gordon finished with 20 points, but made only two on nine free throws. As a team, Mitty made six of 14. Windward canned 17 of 26 from the charity stripe.

"Our game plan was to contain their shooters, not so much Gordon," Villegas said. "We just wanted to keep a body on Gordon and limit him on the boards. If you look at it, they got back into the game with their shooting."

Windward will take on Taft (Woodland Hills, Calif.) in a Thursday night semifinal contest. The Toreadors advanced with a 56-39 quarterfinal victory over host Torrey Pines as forwards Anthony "Dinnertime" January and Brandon Perry combined for 39 points.

The other semifinal will pit FAB 50 No. 10 DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) against upset-minded Newark Memorial (Newark, Calif.).

The Cougars from Northern California are decided underdogs against the famed program from Maryland. Two years ago, Newark Memorial pulled off a string of upsets to make the National Division final against a St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.) team led by Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Kentucky).

Winning time at Windward

Villegas got an early Christmas gift when former Wildcats guard Darius Morris made the opening day roster of his hometown Los Angeles Lakers.

It was a proud moment for the school, but the basketball program had "arrived" earlier this year when the Wildcats upset FAB 50-ranked Salesian (Richmond, Calif.) to capture the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Div. IV state title. It was Windward's second title in three seasons, as they won the 2009 Div. V title with the 6-foot-4 Morris leading the way.

"The first one was expected, that's the big difference," said Villegas, now in his ninth season. "The second one opened everyone's eyes to what we're doing. We've been sending a lot of kids to the next level, too."

So how has winning changed the former Dominican College point guard out of South Gate (South Gate, Calif.) since he began to build his program eight years ago?

"Well, you get a lot more, 'Hey coach, how's it going?' lines and more people know who we are," said Villegas, whose team will battle Taft (Woodland Hills, Calif.) in a National Division semifinal with another highly-ranked FAB 50 team likely awaiting the winner in Friday's title game. "The expectations are what has changed. The thing with the community is, they now expect us to be in championship games.

"I'm still the same coach, I haven't changed, but it does feel good that people have recognized what you have done."

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

Holiday Classic: Quick Shots Day 2

December, 28, 2011
12/28/11
9:22
PM ET
BeeJay Anya, DeMatha, high school basketballScott Kurtz/ESPNHSJunior BeeJay Anya led DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) to a big win over Lincoln (San Diego, Calif.), but his team has a long way to go to be considered among the Stags' all-time best teams.
Related: Quick Shots Day 1

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.

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

Holiday Classic: Quick Shots Day 1

December, 27, 2011
12/27/11
9:51
PM ET
Mason Shepard, WindwardScott Kurtz/ESPNHSMason Shepard (left) is a standout freshman for Windward (Los Angeles).
Here are some day one news and notes from the 22nd Annual Torrey Pines Holiday Classic in San Diego, Calif., Dec. 27-30.

Seven-foot center at Holiday Classic

SAN DIEGO -- One of the most intriguing players at this year's event is 7-foot-1 center Cheikh N'diaye of Army-Navy Academy (Carlsbad, Calif.).

The Senegal native has lived in the United States for approximately three years and when he came to California to attend the all-boys boarding school, he didn't speak any English.

He's been a quick learner -- both on and off the court. The military discipline instilled in all students at the school plays a big role in N’diaye’s accelerated learning curve, even though only five percent of them actually enroll in the military, according to school president Steve Bliss.

In the season opener against El Camino (Oceanside, Calif.), N'diaye showed off some of the discipline he's learned by taking a charge. Unfortunately, he sustained a concussion and has not played since, including Army-Navy's 76-53 loss to regionally-ranked Lincoln (San Diego, Calif.) on Monday in a "play-in" game with a spot in the tournament’s National Division on the line.

N’diaye hopes he's able to suit up by the second day of the tournament.

"I am going to see a doctor on Wednesday morning... if he clears me I'll play that afternoon," N’diaye said. "I feel good, but it's really up to him."

From the tone of his voice you can tell N’diaye is itching to play, but the time off has also given the seven-footer a new perspective watching from the bench.

"I notice that we can play more together. I provide defense and shot-blocking, so when I'm not playing, they got to go hard."

Freshman steps up for Windward

Windward (Los Angeles) opened National Division play against O'Dea (Seattle) and pulled out a 66-62 victory. It was a struggle as top player Nick Stover, a Loyola Marymount recruit, picked up is fourth foul halfway through the third quarter. Mason Shepard, a 6-foot-6, 210-pound freshman, picked up the slack.

With Windward clinging to a one-point lead with 1:45 remaining, Shepard's contested follow-up shot on a Stover field goal attempt gave the Wildcats a 61-58 lead. With Windward leading 64-62 with 8.4 seconds remaining, they were called for a five-second violation and survived a 3-point attempt by O'Dea's Jalen Jones to pull out the win.

"Nick is obviously our best player, but when he went down I had to step up," said Shepard, who finished with a team-high 19 points and double digit rebounds (13 unofficially). "I did good, but I think I can play better."

Windward actually has middle school students on campus, but this is Shepard's first year in the program. He witnessed Windward's run to a Division IV state title last season and felt comfortable enrolling because he already knew many of the players in the program. He has big aspirations this year and is confident his 6-4 club can compete with and defeat POWERADE FAB 50 No. 16 Mitty (San Jose, Calif.) in Wednesday's National Division quarterfinal.

"I'm not satisfied at all, plus this was our first game with a full team with guys coming over from football and back from injury. I'm really looking forward to the next game."

Unique view for successful first year coach

Arguably the most distinguished coach at the tournament is also one of the least recognizable. After all, his team comes into the Holiday Classic 7-2 and as underdogs in its Senators Division opener against unbeaten Cathedral Catholic (San Diego, Calif.).

Jeff Sink won four state titles, 10 CIF Southern Section tiles and 16 league titles in 17 years coaching the nationally renowned girls' team at Brea Olinda (Brea, Calif.). He gave two reasons why he stepped down and decided to take over the boys' program -- challenge and frustration.

"I made the change for two basic reasons," Sink said. "I'm 60, so if I was going to try something else now was the time. Second, I had my best team ever last season at Brea. We were ranked No. 1 in the country. With a couple of weeks to go in the season, we got hit by a bout of selfishness. I always ran a tight ship and it was very unfamiliar to me. Let's just say I didn't handle it well."

The Ladycats didn't win their section title and lost to a Canyon Springs (Moreno Valley, Calif.) team in the state regional 11 days after beating the same team by 18 points.

He offers straightforward advice for the boys players at the Holiday Classic from his unique perspective.

"Guys don't study opponents and don't work hard at exploiting other guys' weaknesses, such as overplaying their strong hand. Guys would benefit if they became more students of the game."

Sink doesn't mind blending in as just another boys' coach and doesn't seem to miss the tremendous expectations and pressure of coaching a program like the Ladycats'. But in spite of the change of scenery, it's evident his competitive juices still burn.

"It's fun, but my team is short and honestly were not that good," Sink said. "I do miss having one of the top teams in the country. I'm learning along with the players."

Right on cue with Sink's comments, Brea Olinda came away with a 54-51 victory over host Cathedral Catholic, which came into Tuesday's game with a 11-0 record.

Senior guard Jonny Alarcon netted a team-high 14 points for Brea Olinda.

New school, new nickname

It had been a full calendar year since Anthony January suited up in a regulation high school game before taking the floor earlier this month for regionally ranked Taft (Woodland Hills, Calif.).

The 6-foot-7 senior forward left Compton (Compton, Calif.) last year and was home schooled for the rest of the academic school year.

Before venturing to Torrey Pines for the Holiday Classic, January led Taft to the Mission Prep Christmas Classic national division title in San Luis Obispo, Calif. He scored a game-high 20 points in the title game victory over state-ranked La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.).

January wanted to let everyone know how hungry he is to make a big splash in his return to high school hoops that he now goes by the moniker "Dinnertime."

"I came up with it myself," January said after scoring a team-high 17 points in Taft's 64-60 opening round National Division victory over Lake Washington (Kirkland, Wash.). "I was just thinking one day about being hungry to get back on the court."

January's father, also known as Anthony January, was an all-state player at Carson (Carson, Calif.) in the mid-1980s and played for the late Don Haskins at UTEP. During his playing days he went by “A.J.” and his son has been called "Little J" by family members and close friends since childhood.

January hopes that his new nickname sticks, despite the occasional ribbing by teammates and classmates.

"Sometimes when I'm by the cafeteria at school people tell me to go cook and stuff like that," January said. "I most definitely want to keep it going."

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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