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Tuesday, February 1, 2011
LA North: Simi Valley 48, No. 17 Thousand Oaks 44

By Sean Ceglinsky

SIMI VALLEY -- Each time the Simi Valley High boys' basketball team needed a big play Tuesday night, regardless of whether it was a bucket, rebound, assist, steal or block, the Pioneers turned to Jonathan Davis. And more often than not, he delivered.

For example, in the waning moments of the fourth quarter against Thousand Oaks, the senior converted a layup with 1:40 left to essentially seal a 48-44 victory and move Simi Valley into a first-place tie with the Lancers atop the Marmonte League standings.

“We need Jonathan to go, because when he does, we're a tough team to beat,'' Pioneers coach Christian Aurand said. “When we needed a basket late, he'd blow by the double-team heading for him and racked it. You've got to love having a player like that on your side.''

With three more games remaining in the regular season, Simi Valley (17-6, 9-2) can clinch a share of the league championship if it wins out the rest of the way. No. 17 in the ESPNLosAngeles.com top 20 rankings, Thousand Oaks (20-3, 9-2) is in the same position.

“In our league, it's all about being able to steal a game on the other teams court. Tonight, we ran into a tough team, unfortunately,'' Lancers coach Rich Endres said.

The Lancers also ran into a tough individual: Davis, of course. The 6-foot-8 forward, who is heading to George Washington, finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Can't forget to mention that he added two blocks and two assists in more than 30 minutes of action.

The Pioneers took a comfortable 29-17 advantage at halftime and did not appear to be at all satisfied with the lead in the opening minutes of the second half.

Accordingly, Davis came out after the break and scored back-to-back baskets to give Simi Vallley a 17-point lead with 5:20 remaining in the third quarter.

The Lancers, however, refused to go away quietly.

Evann Hall, Austin Cagley, Austin Kingi and Richard Mullaney each scored on layups for the Lancers. And when Anthony Jaques pulled up and knocked down a short jumper in the lane just before the third quarter buzzer sounded, Thousand Oaks trailed 39-29.

It was more of the same in the fourth quarter, more of Hall & Co. rallying from behind. His big three-pointer with 3:35 left in the game cut the deficit to 44-42.

At that point, apparently, Davis had seen more than enough.

Down the stretch, he grabbed several timely rebounds. His layup with less than two minutes left and subsequent free-throw provided the final margin of victory.

“Late in the game, when the pressure is on, I don't feel nervous because I've been there before,'' Davis said. “Bottom line is, this was a big win for us, a huge win.''

Make no mistake, Davis had plenty of help along the way. D.J Saul scored a team-high 16 points for the Pioneers, including five three-pointers. Fellow starter Jessie Di Nonno added eight points. Nolan Reed came off the bench and provided a spark with seven points.

The Lancers struggled on the offensively in the first half, particularly in the second quarter when they managed a mere four points. When all was said and done, Hall and Jaques finished with 12 points each. Mullaney and Kingi had eight and seven points, respectively.

Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter