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."
Croom and Co. did just enough. Ryan Anderson and Alex Carmon both missed a pair of free throws late, allowing Etiwanda to inch to within 65-63 with 11 seconds remaining. Metoyer could only shake his head, calling them "big, big free throws."
Poly had been 21 for 23 from the line before the four consecutive misses. Moore, perhaps the Jackrabbits' best free-throw shooter, could only watch.
"We expected it to be this type of game," Etiwanda coach Dave Kleckner said. "We believed we had the ability to beat them even though they're as good as they are."
Anderson was fouled on the next possession. He made the first, missed the second. Anderson's future teammate, Boston College-bound guard Jordan Daniels, was off to the races. He stopped short of the 3-point arc but missed the potential tying shot.
"All we could depend on was that we contested it and that we didn't foul," Metoyer said of Daniels' heave.
Moore, despite fouling out, had a team-high 17 points. Anderson had 16, Carmon had 14. Tyler Lacour led Etiwanda with 17. USC-bound guard Byron Wesley had 12, Daniels had 11.
Metoyer, who has coached against Etiwanda seven times, sounded relieved to know he won't have to see them again. Poly had beaten the Eagles by seven last week in the CIF-Southern Section Division 1AA semifinals. Etiwanda and Poly split their two meetings last year, both in the postseason.
"The rivalry has become a great one," Metoyer said. "We're just fortunate to get out of here with a win."
And fortunate to know Moore hasn't played his final game in the Poly jersey.