Los Angeles Preps: Harvey Kitani
1. Loyola (4-0)
Key players: PG Parker Jackson-Cartwright, SG Justin Childress, SG Jacob Hazzard, SF Julian Harrell (Penn)
Last season: The Cubs went 25-6 and won the CIF-Southern Section Div. I-A championship before losing by two to eventual state champion Mater Dei in regionals.
Why they're here: Jackson-Cartwright, only a sophomore, is already considered the top point guard in the state. Mix in the shooting of Childress and Hazzard -- as well as the versatility of Harrell -- and the Cubs have a lineup that few can match.
2. Long Beach Poly (3-1)
Key players: SF Roschon Prince, PF Jordan Bell, PG Chris Croom, SG Reuben Strickland
Last season: The Jackrabbits posted a 30-2 record and captured the Division 1AA title in Anaheim before losing to eventual state champion Mater Dei in regionals.
Why they're here: Poly coach Sharrief Metoyer lost his top two to graduation -- state player of the year Ryan Anderson (Boston College) and Alexis Moore (USC) -- but there's more than enough talent left. Prince and Bell might be the best one-two combination in the county.
3. La Verne Lutheran (4-0)
Key players: PF Grant Jerrett (Arizona), SG Eric Cooper Jr. (Arizona), SF McKay Anderson, SG Cameron Osorno
Last season: The Trojans overcame off-the-court adversity, finishing with a 25-5 mark and a second consecutive state championship.
Why they're here: Jerrett, a long and lean power forward, is arguably the top prospect on the West Coast. Coach Eric Cooper Sr. returns nine letter-winners from last year's team, including son Eric Cooper Jr., a sharp-shooting junior who makes teams pay for double-teaming Jerrett down low.
4. St. John Bosco (4-0)
Key players: SG Isaac Hamilton, PF Anthony January (UTEP), SF Darryl Matthews, SG Daniel Hamilton
Last season: The Braves finished 21-9 and were eliminated in the quarterfinals of the CIF-SS Division 4AA playoffs.
Why they're here: New coach Derrick Taylor, who built Woodland Hills Taft into a City Section power, has the Braves thinking about the Trinity League crown. Getting past defending state champion Mater Dei won't be easy, but Bosco has Isaac Hamilton, a transfer from Crenshaw who is one of the nation's top juniors.
5. Price (3-1)
Key players: PF Skylar Spencer (San Diego State), PG Chance Murray, SG Chris Sandifer
Last season: The high-flying Knights went 24-8 and fell just short against La Caņada in the CIF-SS Division 3AA championship game.
Why they're here: Yes, Price lost guard Askia Booker (Colorado) and ultra athletic forward Norvel Pelle to graduation but don't dismiss coach Michael Lynch's bunch. Spencer is another high-soaring scorer who's lethal in fast break opportunities, and Murray, a junior, already has a scholarship offer from UCLA.
LOS ANGELES -- Taft boys' basketball coach Derrick Taylor couldn't stop grinning as he walked off the Galen Center court following Saturday's CIF City Section Division I championship game -- well, as he tried to walk off.
Because he couldn't. His wife was waiting patiently, just a quick glance away, by the tunnel, and his players were waiting eagerly for him in the locker room, but fans kept approaching him left and right, a number of new obstacles presenting themselves each step he took. It took Taylor two minutes to get from under the basket to the bench, another two minutes to get from in front of the bench to behind the bench and another two minutes to get from there to the tunnel.
Finally, he had a little bit of space, embracing his wife and attempting to head to the locker room to address his team. But the media beckoned, and Taylor decided to wait just a few more minutes to give his players the congratulations he said they deserved.
"I guess this is my Andy Warhol moment," he quipped.
That's what happens when you beat Westchester. Taylor in his 11th year at Taft, had accomplished a number of worthwhile things in the world of high school basketball, but he had never managed to beat the Comets and legendary coach Ed Azzam in the City Section playoffs. Three times he had tried --- including each of the previous two years -- and three times he had failed.
Taylor's top-seeded Toreadors finally succeeded Saturday, topping Westchester, 66-62, in a spirited effort behind 20 points and 14 rebounds from senior forward C.J. Blackwell and 14 points and 12 assists from point guard Spencer Dinwiddie.
"Coach Taylor had been 0-3 against Westchester in the finals," said Taft forward Stephen Maxwell, who had 18 points and nine rebounds. "He always talks about how he wants to beat Westchester.
"So to come out here and play as hard as we possibly could, it should be a big thing for him."
WESTCHESTER -- Fairfax coach Harvey Kitani was hoping the third time would be the charm for his Lions when going up against the Westchester Comets in the quarterfinals of the CIF City Section playoffs.
Westchester (25-6), ranked eighth in the latest ESPNLA.com Top 20 rankings, was again too much for Kitani's Lions to handle -- for the third time this season. The Comets had already topped the Lions twice this season, by 27 points at Fairfax and by 12 at home. Tuesday, Westchester manhandled the Lions with a smothering man-to-man defense from the opening tip to take home the 59-34 win to set up a semifinals matchup with Washington at the Galen Center on Friday.
The Comets opened Tuesday's game with a 9-0 lead and led 25-10 at the half, never really letting the Lions into the game after that point. They withstood Fairfax's best run in the third quarter and led, 43-24, at the end of that period, before closing it out in the fourth with a well-balanced offensive attack that included a couple reserves.
"They didn't do anything different," Comets coach Ed Azzam said of the rival Lions. "And we didn't do anything different either. We struggle scoring, but they really struggle scoring, and so that was the difference. They just couldn't put the ball in the basket."
Westchester has now beaten Fairfax six consecutive times, with the last Fairfax win coming in February 2009 at Westchester. The storied rivalry, once thought to be fairly even at one point last decade, has clearly tipped in the Comets' direction.
So much potential.
So far from realizing it. At least up to now.
That basically sums up the basketball career of Renardo Sidney. At one point, the former Los Angeles Fairfax High product had one of the more promising futures of any Southland player in recent memory.
Sidney, however, has experienced many trials and tribulations along the way, seemingly too many to count. It has been one thing after another for the player who was a USC commit in 2009. And little has changed since his arrival at Mississippi State.
Over the course of the past two seasons with the Bulldogs, Sidney has been suspended on a number of occasions for a number of different reasons. In fact, the sophomore got into an altercation in the stands with teammate Elgin Bailey during a December game at the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii and the incident made national headlines.
When taking some of those facts into consideration, it is difficult imagining there being a time when it actually appeared as if Sidney could no wrong. But yes, things were heading in the right direction for him. Truth be told, it was not that long ago either.
“Talent wise, Renardo was one of the best around, he was amazing,'' said Fairfax coach Harvey Kitani. As a senior for the Lions, ESPNU ranked Sidney as the country's No. 3 power forward, and the No. 7 prospect overall. His name was mentioned in the same sentence as future NBA players such as John Wall, Derrick Favors and DeMarcus Cousins.
“Renardo had a wealth of talent, he was on top of his game back then,'' Kitani added. “With his size and athleticism, with his intelligence and understanding of the game, he had a tendency to make things look effortless. He did things other guys couldn't do.''
With five Southland boys' basketball programs ranked in the ESPNLosAngeles.com top 20 scheduled to compete in the Fairfax State Preview Classic, it appeared as if the spectators in attendance at Fairfax High on Saturday were bound to get their money's worth with plenty of fast-paced action. Turns out, no one walked away disappointed.
Etiwanda and Los Angeles Loyola, ranked No. 2 and No. 11, respectively, was the marquee matchup of the day-long event. Those who stayed around for the nightcap, no doubt, were treated to a rather entertaining affair as the underdog Cubs battled back from numerous deficits to pull off a surprising 70-64 upset over the Eagles.
“Etiwanda is tough team, we knew that coming in, that's one of the best programs in the state,'' Cubs coach Jamal Adams said. “The best part about a showcase like this is that our team gets to come out and see how we measure up against the best around. We were tickled to be a part of something like this. It was exciting for us and the fans.''
Etiwanda's Byron Wesley was the story early on.
The 6-foot-5 senior, a USC commit, scored nine points in the early going and Etiwanda (23-0 overall) took a five-point lead at the end of one quarter. All told, Wesley had 17 points in the first half to help extend the advantage to eight at halftime.
It was more of the same after the break. Wesley had 26 points at the end of the three, and accordingly, the Eagles had a 57-49 lead.
“We knew that we were going to play in front of a big crowd, a packed house, and we wanted to show we're the real deal,'' Wesley said.