LOS ANGELES -- With so many options on the offensive end of the floor, sometimes it is difficult for opponents to determine which Loyola prep basketball player on which to focus their collective energy. It was Justin Childress ' turn on Monday night.
The senior guard was seemingly unstoppable from start to finish against visiting Encino Crespi. The Celts had no answer for Childress, who ended up with 17 points for the Cubs in a 70-52 victory in a pivotal Mission League showdown.
“I know that I'm capable of doing my part, you know holding my own, when my number is called for this team,'' Childress said. “I felt like I owed it to my teammates to step up. We needed this win, it puts us right back into race for the title.''
With the victory, Loyola (16-2, 5-2) is a game behind first-place Mission Hills Alemany in the league standings. Moreover, the result gives the Cubs, No. 4 in the ESPNLosAngeles.com top 20 rankings, added confidence moving forward.
The Celts (18-3, 5-2), on the other hand, took a step back. Ranked No. 6 in the most recent poll, Crespi needs to rebound from the loss quickly.
“Justin got off tonight for us, and it's not all that surprising, he's been rock solid for us all year long,'' Loyola coach Jamal Adams said.
The Cubs have four players who average 10 or more points per game, with Childress being one of them, of course. Julian Harrell, Jacob Hazzard and Parker Jackson-Cartwright are the others.
Similar to the first half, Childress was hot in the second half. He scored five points and the Cubs extended their lead to 14 points at the the end of three.
It was more of the same in the fourth quarter as Childress & Co. successfully maintained a double-digit lead and were up by as many as 20 points during one stretch.
“It's hard to matchup against Loyola, it's hard to stop all of their key players. We had a tough time,'' Crespi coach Russell White said.
Harrell got off to particularly slow start for Loyola, picked up two early fouls, and sat out a majority of the first quarter as a result. Back out on the floor midway through the second quarter, the senior and Penn commit never found his rhythm and finished with three points at the break.
Childress picked up the slack. He scored nine points in the first half to help the Cubs build some much-needed momentum and take an all-important 28-24 lead at intermission.
Crespi failed to score until the 3:16 mark of the first quarter when London Perrantes converted a layup in traffic and was fouled. He completed the three-point play with a free-throw. Aside from the lack of early baskets, the Celts managed to tie the score, 12-12, at the end of one.
Matters certainly were not helped by the fact that Michael Milligan Jr. didn't play for the Celts due to concussion-like symptoms. And one of the other players Crespi looks to for leadership, Michael Avery, was cold throughout and failed to score any points by the end of the night.
Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.