Los Angeles Preps: Alex Carmon



LONG BEACH -- Alexis Moore called it a preview of next season.

Long Beach Poly minus him.

It was just a sneak peek, though, as the top-seeded Jackrabbits survived without their senior leader, fending off a furious charge to beat Etiwanda, 66-63, before a packed gym at Long Beach City College. Poly advanced to the semifinals of the CIF Southern California Regional state playoffs and will play host to fourth-seeded Mater Dei on Saturday night.

Ninth-seeded Etiwanda used an 11-2 run at the start of the fourth quarter to climb back from a 14-point deficit. The Eagles trailed by five with just under two minutes remaining.

Then things got a bit fuzzy.

Moore nailed a clutch 3-pointer to put Poly up eight and celebrated emphatically as he backpedaled to the other end.

"I didn't say anything to the other players," Moore said. "I didn't say anything to the fans. It was just one of those in-the-moment things."

He raised his arms twice and looked over to Poly's supporters, but then a whistle blew.

"He tried to get the crowd involved," Poly coach Sharrief Metoyer explained. "I always thought taunting was player-to-player. He was excited, he had just made a big shot."

Play was stopped and Moore was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct technical. It was his fifth personal foul, so he had to watch the final minutes from the bench.

After a few moments of chaos, the USC-bound Moore grabbed his replacement, junior guard Chris Croom, and revved him up.

"I told him this was a preview for his senior year," Moore said. "Next year they're going to be looking on him to fill my role."

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Alexis Moore had a feeling this would happen, so he didn't boast when Long Beach Poly eliminated Etiwanda from the CIF-Southern Section Division 1AA boys' basketball playoffs last week.

It's a good thing he didn't say much -- top-seeded Poly (30-1) and Etiwanda (29-3) meet again Thursday at Long Beach City College, with a spot in the third round of the CIF State Division 1 playoffs up for grabs. The opening tip is scheduled for 7 p.m.

There's a complicated dynamic to this rivalry.

Moore will play alongside Etiwanda star Byron Wesley at USC next season. Poly's top prospect, forward Ryan Anderson, will team up with Etiwanda's point guard, Jordan Daniels, at Boston College.

The future teammates figure to put their friendships on hold for one night.

If Poly beats Etiwanda for the second time in two weeks, Moore and Anderson will be doing the talking on their campuses this fall. If No. 9-seeded Etiwanda pulls off the upset, Wesley and Daniels will have the last laugh.

Five things to watch:

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Long Beach Poly already accomplished Goal 1A, winning the CIF-Southern Section Division 1AA boys' basketball championship last week. Now the Jackrabbits set their sights on Goal 1B: a state title.

Star forward Ryan Anderson was the only one jumping for joy after Poly (29-1) claimed the sectional crown against Centennial at Anaheim Arena last Saturday. That was by design. Most of his teammates held off on the dance moves -- and won't do so until the Jackrabbits win state.

The journey to Sacramento begins Tuesday night at 7 p.m. when top-seeded Poly hosts Palisades (18-13) in the first round of the CIF State basketball championships.

Five keys to the game:

1. Palisades might want to avoid a slow start, which doomed them against Woodland Hills Taft in the CIF-City Section semifinals. Poly, meanwhile, jumped all over fast-paced Centennial and never let up, coasting to an uneventful championship win. Don't be surprised if Palisades coach James Paleno burns a few timeouts early to put an end to runs.

2. Yeah, the ultimate prize awaits in Sacramento, but Poly must maintain focus and not get ahead of itself. Championships aren't won in one night. Seniors Alexis Moore and Alex Carmon have fallen short before, so they know that. Anderson doesn't think focus will be a problem. "There's been a target on our back all season," he said. "We'll get everyone's best shot."

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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.

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