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LA South and Inland Empire: Division 1AA, Long Beach Poly 68, Centennial 52

3/7/2011

ANAHEIM -- The elation in Ryan Anderson was evident, his happiness blatant. And although he was the only one jumping for joy, Anderson celebrated enough for an entire team.

Seconds after Long Beach Poly claimed the CIF-Southern Section Division 1AA boys' basketball title with a 68-52 win over Corona Centennial at Anaheim Arena, Anderson leaned over and grabbed the game ball. He held it tight to his chest, closed his eyes.

Finally..

"I wanted this so bad," Anderson said, "because we've tried to get this the last two years and fell short. All the work we put in, the target has been on our back the whole year. To finally win is just a relief."

Anderson did his part with a game-high 18 points and 21 rebounds against an undersized front court. He was just too big, too determined. The Boston College-bound forward did fall just short of his pregame goal of 20 points, 20 rebounds.

Poly coach Sharrief Metoyer wasn't complaining. Centennial coach Josh Giles wasn't surprised.

"He's going to an ACC school for a reason," Giles said.

And there's a reason why Poly has been the state's top-ranked team all season long. The top-seeded Jackrabbits (28-1) had been doing just enough in the postseason, but finally put a full game together.

Defense, offense, rebounding, three-point shooting -- all facets were accounted for. Poly grabbed 43 rebounds, Centennial just 16.

"What you saw was our experience," Metoyer said. "We did a great job of finishing quarters."

A thunderous dunk by reserve Jordan Bell gave Poly a 16-point lead at halftime. The game was still in doubt, in large part due to third-seeded Centennial (27-4) and its patented pressure defense. The Huskies had reached the championship game by coming back from 15 down against second-seeded Mater Dei on Tuesday.

Poly shot 53.8 percent in the first half and dominated the boards to the tune of 21-8. To put that into proper perspective, Anderson had as many rebounds in the first half (eight) as Centennial did.

"That's going to be really tough to overcome," Giles said. "We were trying to box out, it just didn't happen."

Centennial's suffocating defense doomed Mater Dei, yet it just wasn't effective Saturday. The Huskies were unsuccessful on two fronts: stopping Anderson down low and manning the perimeter. Anderson did the dirty work while Poly's perimeter shooters were 6 for 12 from beyond the arc.

"If you ask our kids, there's one word: will," Metoyer said.

Michael Caffey led the Huskies with 17 points.

Metoyer also credited the leadership of seniors Alexis Moore (16 points) and Alex Carmon (12 points). The next goal is winning a state title.

"We've kind of grown up together," he said. "Two years ago they committed themselves to being here tonight."

They left as champions.