Los Angeles Preps: James Douglas

ESPNLA top 20 boys' basketball rankings (final)

March, 29, 2011
What a season, so much to reflect on, so little time.

The level of boys' basketball play in the Southland was seemingly at an all-time high this past season, most certainly right on par with what we have seen around here in years past.

The players. The coaches. The games. The drama. That said, we figured it was about time to unveil the ESPNLosAngeles.com top 20 rankings for the final time this season. Enjoy!

1. (2) Mater Dei (32-2): This group was supposed to be a year away from making an impact. But low and behold, juniors Xavier Johnson and Kaitin Reinhardt won a state title. Division I, no less.

2. (1) Long Beach Poly (31-2): All signs pointed to the Jackrabbits being capable of finishing as the wire-to-wire top-ranked team. Ultimately, however, the target on their backs was a bit too big.

3. (4) Corona Centennial (30-5): Dominique Dunning, Michael Caffey and Gelaun Wheelwright made a nice run. Capping off their senior campaigns with a championship was not in the cards though.

4. (3) Taft (29-3): The Toreadors were the odds-on favorite to win a City Section ring right before the season began. True to form, they had little, or no trouble living up to the rather lofty expectations.

5. (5) Loyola (25-6): Talk about not backing down from any challenges, the Cubs played one of the toughest schedules around. Make no mistake, they managed to hold their own in the process.

6. (6) Etiwanda (29-4): Most observers agreed that the Eagles were going to go as far as Byron Wesley would take them. Once postseason play started, the USC-bound senior did not disappoint.

7. (7) Orange Lutheran (27-7): Senior James Douglas is gone, having committed to Northern Arizona. Junior Gabe York returns which means the Lancers will be a formidable unit in the future.

8. (14) Ventura (29-3): Somehow, someway, the Cougars flew underneath the radar during the regular season. Rest assured, everyone knew plenty about them after the Southern Section playoffs.

9. (17) La Verne Lutheran (26-5): Turned tragedy into triumph. The Trojans overcame the loss of three people closely associated to the program and ended up with a Division III state championship.

10. (18) Windward (27-8): Wesley Saunders did a little bit of everything, most of it well. When all was said and done, he guided the Wildcats to a their second straight state title, this time in Division IV.

(Read full post)

ANAHEIM -- Sometimes it's good to be greedy.

Senior James Douglas realized it and delivered Wednesday night, scoring 27 points to help Orange Lutheran claim the CIF Southern Section Division 4AA boys' basketball title with a 78-71 win over Windward at Anaheim Arena.

Don't call Douglas selfish, though. The Northern Arizona-bound guard also led the top-seeded Lancers with nine rebounds and six assists. He wasn't about to head back to Orange without the trophy.

"When my team needs it, I get going," Douglas said. "I knew I had to be aggressive."

Douglas came out hard, scoring nine points in the first quarter as Lutheran (26-6) jumped out to a 24-6 lead. He had another eight in the second, helping the top-seeded Lancers to a 10-point advantage at the break.

"They started off real fast on us and we were opposite," Windward coach Miguel Villegas said. "We couldn't hit a shot and exerted a lot of energy to get back into this ballgame."

It was only a matter of time, Douglas said, until the second-seeded Wildcats (23-8) made their run. Windward forward Wesley Saunders believed nerves were his team's biggest issue. They had taken the court immediately after the school's girls' team celebrated its own CIF title win.

The Wildcats, behind 24 points and 13 rebounds from Saunders, climbed the mountain and assumed a 50-49 lead with less than two minutes remaining in the third. Windward went into the final quarter leading 54-51 after outscoring Lutheran 22-9 in the third.

It looked like the small school of 345 students would make it two for two in Anaheim.

(Read full post)

Orange Lutheran scored a victory this season over Mater Dei and is the No. 1 team in the Southern Section Boys Division 4AA playoffs. That much most people could figure.

But little—and we mean little—Padre Pio Academy in Garden Grove joins the Lancers as the only Orange County schools to be the top-seeded teams in the playoffs.

Padre Pio, which has 19 students, is the No. 1 team in the section's smallest division, 6A. Having a 6-foot-4 center, Kevin Crostic, probably means a lot to the six-man squad.

The Rebels (20-4) open with Pacific Lutheran (5-14) and will keep their fingers crossed they don't lose a coin flip and have to travel to Lee Vining (10-5), which is 65 miles north of Bishop, in the second round.

As for Lutheran (20-7), it finished second to Mater Dei (22-2)—the No. 2 team in Division 1AA—in the Trinity League and will open the 32-team tournament with a home game against Temescal Canyon (10-16). If everything plays out as expected, OLu will play second-seeded Windward (18-7) in the section finals March 2-5 at Anaheim Convention Center Arena.

There were four county teams that received the No. 2 seeded position: Mater Dei, Aliso Niguel, Mission Viejo and St. Margaret's.

Led by Gabe York and James Douglas, OLu could meet up with St. Francis (10-16) in the quarterfinals. Although St. Francis has a losing record, it was the sixth-place team from the Mission League, which is one of the best leagues in the section: Loyola (1A) and Harvard Westlake (3A) are No. 1 seeded teams, Crespi (3A) is seeded No. 2, and Alemany (4AA) is No. 3.

Further proof that it won't be a walk in the park for Lutheran is that its potential semifinal opponent, St. John Bosco (19-8), defeated the Lancers in a Trinity League game.

Division 1AA: Mater Dei opens with Rancho Cucamonga (13-14), and could face Chaparral (19-8) in the quarterfinals, which is significant only because Mater Dei star Xavier Johnson, a junior, transferred from Chaparral. Long Beach Poly (24-1) is the top-seeded team in the division. Los Alamitos (20-8) could get a crack at third-seeded Corona Centennial (23-3) in the second round.

(Read full post)

1. Mater Dei’s 67-65 victory over Price on Saturday in the Nike Extravaganza bodes really well for the Monarchs (22-2). They beat one of the outstanding teams around, and continue to perform really well despite nine of their top 10 players being underclassmen.If they’re going to win a Southern Section or state title, Xavier Johnson, Katin Reinhardt & Co., are going to have to win some close games.

2. Orange Lutheran (19-6) continues to show that it’s a team that needs to be watched. Although it has six losses, OLu has not lost to a team in Orange County, and it’s the only county team with a victory over Mater Dei. At the Nike Extravaganza, Gabe York and James Douglas led the Lancers to a 66-63 overtime victory over Westchester. Any day, any time, any victory over Westchester (20-6) is a great victory. How many teams can claim victories over Mater Dei and Westchester in the same year? Not many.

3. You had to feel that Mission Viejo had a tenuous hold on perfection. The Diablos had won 23 in a row before losing to Tesoro, 51-49, on Friday when Dusty Baker sank a pair of free throws with nine seconds remaining. However, eight of Mission’s victories—one third of its games—had been decided by five points or fewer, and another was decided by six points. At a time when the Diablos should probably be exerting more dominance over teams while heading toward the playoffs, four of their previous five games had been determined by five points; the exception was an emotional 59-39 nonleague win over Aliso Niguel (22-2). Mission is the only team to have beaten the Wolverines. What does it mean? There’s still work to do. But the loss will probably help in the long run, providing further proof that in basketball, there’s more to winning than just showing up.

(Read full post)

Nike Extravaganza lives up to its name

February, 5, 2011
When they say extravaganza, they mean extravaganza.

There was plenty of hype surrounding Saturday's Nike Extravaganza, held over at Santa Ana Mater Dei High. And rightfully so, given the fact that several of the Southland's premier boys' basketball programs were in attendance and competing for regional bragging rights.

The event started bright and early in the morning, right around 8 a.m. Things didn't finish up until late in the evening, of course, just before 11 p.m. In between, you better believe the action was played at the highest of levels. It was non-stop, from beginning to end.

Suppose that best explains why the camera crews from ESPN2 were on hand for the showcase game, a match-up featuring Las Vegas (NV) Bishop Gorman and Long Beach Poly, which has been ranked No. 1 in the ESPNLosAngeles.com top 20 poll all season long.

Turns out, the visitors from the nearby desert were too much, particularly Shabazz Muhammad. At times, the talented junior scored seemingly at will and he finished with 31 points in a 58-53 victory over the Jackrabbits, who lost for the first time in 23 games thus far.

With a five-point lead at the outset of the fourth quarter, things appeared to be heading in the right direction for Long Beach Poly (22-1). However, Ryan Anderson, Alexis Moore and Roschon Prince, among others, struggled during the final eight minutes of play.

Muhammad, of course, preserved the victory, making four straight free-throws in the final minute of the game. Spectators should not be overly surprised that he played extremely well for the Gaels (20-6) considering the small forward is ESPNU's top-ranked player at his position for the 2012 class, and No. 5 prospect overall.

(Read full post)

Orange County: No. 3 Mater Dei 84, No. 10 Orange Lutheran 61

January, 28, 2011
SANTA ANA -- Gary McKnight doesn’t subscribe to the notion that a loss can help his team. His star player doesn’t agree. And since Xavier Johnson scored 23 points and helped Mater Dei avenge its loss earlier this season to Orange Lutheran, the kid might have a point.

The Monarchs — ranked No. 3 in the ESPNLA top 20 — scored the first nine points of game, opened up a 19-point lead and then rode it to an 84-61 victory over the 10th-ranked Lancers. The game was, in all likelihood, for the outright Trinity League championship. The only reason it wasn’t for a share of the title is because Lutheran was upset 68-65 by St. John Bosco last week.

The victory almost assures Mater Dei (20-2, 6-1) will win its 23rd consecutive league title. Second-place Lutheran fell to 17-6, 5-2.

Lutheran’s loss to Bosco may have taken some of the shine off the matchup, but the game was still played before a crowd that required the upper level of the Meruelo Athletic Center to be opened, and if they got inside for the first quarter, they saw all they needed to see.

“They kicked our tails,” Lutheran coach Chris Nordstrom said. “I warned them. The fire that Mater Dei came out with in the first quarter is the fire that we played with the last game. We couldn’t match it.”

Lutheran committed nine turnovers in the first quarter and didn’t get an offensive rebound until the second. Gabe York and James Douglas, who combined for 49 points in Lutheran’s 59-56 victory over Mater Dei on Jan. 7 —the first league loss by Mater Dei since 2005 — combined for 28, and 13 of those came in the fourth quarter after the outcome was eminent. Both scored 14.

(Read full post)

ESPNLA top 20 boys' basketball rankings

January, 18, 2011
The boys' basketball season has been fast-paced throughout the Southland to this point and it doesn’t appear as if things will be slowing down any time soon.

That said, let’s get down to business and check out who’s who and find out how some of Southern California’s premier programs stack up against one another in the ESPNLosAngeles.com top 20.

1. Long Beach Poly (15-0): Jackrabbits are cream of the crop and rise to the top.

2. Etiwanda (16-0): Does not appear as if anyone can stop Byron Wesley & Co.

3. Mater Dei (16-2): Two Trinity League games on deck this week for the Monarchs.

4. Centennial (13-3): Pick your poison, Michael Caffey or Dominique Dunning.

5. Taft (13-2): Coming off a big victory at HoopHall Classic in Massachusetts.

6. Orange Lutheran (14-4): Tandem of James Douglas and Gabe York is tough.

7. Westchester (14-5): No superstars, but the Comets are still getting the job done.

8. Canyon (16-2): There’s no shame in losing twice to Mater Dei. Enough said.

9. Harvard-Westlake (16-2): Wolverines on a mission in Mission League play.

10. Mission Viejo (19-0): South Coast clash Wednesday against Capistrano Valley.

(Read full post)

Orange County: Orange Lutheran 59, Mater Dei 56

January, 8, 2011
Mater Dei's performance this season had shown that it wasn't invincible, that a good opponent could hang with the Monarchs. On Friday, it showed that a good opponent could beat them.

Orange Lutheran scored a 59-56 victory over Mater Dei, the No. 1 ranked team in Orange County and No. 12 in the ESPN Rise national ranking. In winning, the fourth-ranked Lancers handed the perennial national power its first loss in Trinity League play -- ever.

OLu (13-4, 2-0) had never beaten Mater Dei (14-2, 1-1), but the Lancers were tied at halftime and after three quarters, and with a packed gymnasium behind them, James Douglas scored on a layup with 58 seconds remaining for a 57-56 lead.

(Read full post)

LA South & Orange County: Price survives a close one to beat Lutheran for 10th title

March, 5, 2010
SANTA ANA - Basketball, it turns out, is also a game of inches.

No one knows that better than Tyler Funk of second-seeded Orange Lutheran, or the players at top-seeded Los Angeles Price, who escaped the Southern Section Boys' Division 4AA finals with a 73-70 victory.

Funk's three-point basket with 1 minute 20 seconds left gave Lutheran (23-8) a chance at upsetting the heavily favored Knights (29-3), pulling to within 72-70. But Funk's three from the wing with 32 seconds left for the lead hit the back of the rim, and his three with one second left for the tie hit the front of the rim.

"A centimeter too short," said the 6-foot-1 Funk, who went right, left and right again to get off his shot against 6-6 Allen Crabbe. "At first I didn't think it looked good, then it looked great.

"It just wasn't our night."

Maybe not, and it provided Price with its 10th section title in 11 years. After consecutive playoff victories of 42, 50, 28 and 12 points, the Knights knew they were in a serious scrap.

"These guys play Mater Dei twice a year," said winning coach Michael Lynch, "they're not going to be intimidated."

Crabbe scored 23, Richard Solomon 19 and Askia Booker 15 for Price.

Gabe York scored 21 for Lutheran, and he was complemented by James Douglas with 17 and Funk with 15. Lutheran finished 27 of 55 from the field (49 percent) and seven of 22 from the three-point line after falling off the pace in the second half. Lutheran made six of 12 three-pointers in the first half but was only one for 10 in the second half.

Price finished 31 of 56 (55 percent) from the field, including 18 of 30 in the first half.

Funk was three of six from beyond the arc, and he became the go-to distance threat after York fouled out with 1:55 to go.

The first half was played at a frenetic pace, but there were few fouls and the game was well-played on both sides. Lutheran trailed, 16-14, when York, Payton Banks and Funk scored on three-pointers to close the first quarter and give the Lancers a 23-16 lead. Lutheran also closed the second quarter strong, with a 9-2 run in the final two minutes, to take a 43-40 lead, the difference being York's three-pointer with 13 seconds left.

"We talked at hafltime and we told our guys that nobody at the high school level will keep shooting at that percentage," Lynch said. "They missed a couple we got a steal here and there."

It happened quickly. Down 46-40, Price went on a 9-0 in a span of 57 seconds, with Richard Soloman hitting a three-pointer and following with a dunk on a nifty assist hiked between the legs of Booker. Booker scored on a fastbreak, and Kenny Green put back a rebound, and less than 20 seconds later Crabbe rebounded a miss for a 51-46 lead with 5:10 left.

There was plenty of looking back, but Price -- which led 61-56 going into the fourth quarter -- would never trail again.

Soloman, like Crabbe, is going to California. After sitting out several minutes with his fourth foul, he reentered with 2:14 left and a 70-67 lead. In a span of 23 seconds, he scored on a dunk, and blocked a shot at the other end.

"We were putting him in for offense," Lynch said. "He really wasn't supposed to be in there when he blocked that shot. Thank God he was."

Because it was that close.