Los Angeles Preps: Michael Milligan Jr.

Fab Five playoff games this weekend

February, 23, 2012
Southern Section Division 1A

Mission Viejo (25-3) vs. West Ranch (17-10): Top-seeded Mission Viejo travels to play eighth-seeded West Ranch in the quarterfinals on Friday night. Can West Ranch pull of the upset? Mission Viejo plays tough defense. Opposing teams are scoring an average of 54.5 points per game against the Diablos. In the playoffs, the Mission Viejo defense is even better, surrendering only 44.5 points per game. Mission Viejo had an 18-game winning streak at one point during the season. West Ranch has a legitimate big man in 6-foot-7 forward Ako Kaluna. He is averaging 16.1 points per game and coming off a 29-point performance against Edison in the second round of the playoffs. West Ranch as a team is averaging 70.4 points per game and 86.5 points per game in the playoffs.

El Toro (22-8) vs. Crescenta Valley (25-4): This should be a tight one. Fifth-seeded El Toro is on the road against fourth-seeded Crescenta Valley. The Falcons are coming off a 67-55 win over Warren in the second round. Dylan Kilgour, Davis Dragovich and Cole Currie each scored in double figures for Crescenta Valley. They combined for 51 of the Falcons’ 67 points against Warren. Kilgour led the way with 19 points. El Toro’s Cody White scored 24 points in his team’s 76-48 win over Huntington Beach in the second round.

Division 2AA

Riverside Poly (21-8) vs. Thousand Oaks (20-8): The Lancers won their biggest game of the season, knocking out top-seeded Ocean View in the second round of the playoffs. Heck, it might have been the biggest win of the playoffs. Now 15th-seeded Thousand Oaks is home against No. 8 Riverside Poly in the quarterfinals. Tanner Fanjoy went off for Thousand Oaks against Ocean View, hitting seven 3-pointers and scoring 27 points. The Lancers were 11-for-12 from 3-point territory as a team. They probably can’t rely on that kind of performance again, but coach Richard Endres is used to preparing teams for deep playoff runs. Poly Riverside narrowly beat Ayala, 44-42, in the second round.

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L.A. North: Five playoff games to watch

February, 20, 2012
Bishop Montgomery (23-4) vs. Crespi (22-6): The Southern Section Division 4AA playoffs are filled with interesting matchups this week. Third-seeded Bishop Montgomery travels to play sixth-seeded Crespi in the quarterfinals Tuesday night. Crespi stumbled at the end of the Mission League season, falling from first place to third place and going 2-5 in the final seven games of league. But Crespi has won its first two playoff games and is coming off a 62-56 win over Sierra Canyon on Friday night. The return of Michael Milligan Jr., who missed three games with a concussion, has helped the Crespi cause. He scored a team-high 21 points against Sierra Canyon in the second round. Bishop Montrgomery, meanwhile, has won five games in a row, but narrowly escaped with a one-point win over Morningside in the second round. Bishop Montgomery won, 55-54, after Larry Taylor III hit a pair of free throws with five seconds remaining in the game. Don’t expect a lot of points in this one. Strong defense will be preached throughout the game.

Harvard-Westlake (20-9) vs. Serra (26-2): The Wolverines have a chance to knock off the top-seeded team in the Division 4AA playoffs. Their win over JSerra Catholic in the second round was a little too close for comfort though. Harvard-Westlake won, 53-49, but nearly blew a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter. JSerra outscored Harvard-Westlake, 19-7, in the final period, but the Wolverines held on to advance. Another area of concern is that only four players scored for Harvard-Westlake against JSerra. The big three for Harvard-Westlake, Derick Newton, Zena Edosomwan and Josh Hearlihy combined to score 49 of their team’s 53 points. Serra has won 11 games in a row and held its first two playoffs opponents to 30 points or less. Playoff opponents are scoring an average of 27.5 points per game against Serra. Edosomwan can score 27 points by himself. He will need significant help if Harvard-Westlake is going to pull off the upset.

Oaks Christian (22-5) vs. La Verne Lutheran (21-6): The Lions have won seven of their past eight games, including a 63-57 win over Chaminade in the second round of the Division 4AA playoffs. They have a great shot at knocking out La Verne Lutheran, the second-seeded team in the playoffs. Not only is Oaks Christian on a hot streak, but La Verne Lutheran might not have one of its best players for the game Tuesday night. Eric Cooper Jr., the team’s second leading scorer at 16.2 points per game and top 3-point shooter, has a broken finger. He might not play in the game against Oaks Christian. Playing without Cooper hasn’t affected the Lutheran offensive output that much. The team is averaging 70 points per game in the playoffs. Oaks Christian has a balanced offensive attack led by Chass Bryan’s 15.3 points per game.

Mater Dei (25-2) vs. Palmdale (20-6): It’s a tall order, but Palmdale can shake up the Division 1AA playoffs with a win over top-seeded and national power Mater Dei in the second round. The teams from the Golden League have proven to be a force in the Division 1AA playoffs so far. Quartz Hill eliminated fifth-seeded Oxnard and Knight ousted 15th-seeded Los Alamitos in the first round. Palmdale, the first-place team from the Golden League, has won 12 games in a row and might surprise Mater Dei. Senior Ryan Wright leads Palmdale with 15.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. However, Palmdale is on the road and Mater Dei has a 12-game winning streak of its own against significantly tougher competition. The Monarchs haven’t lost since Jan. 7 to Gill St. Bernard from New Jersey. It’s a longshot for Palmdale, but that’s why they play the games.

Saugus (19-9) vs. Norco (15-13): Megan Dawe scored 24 points in her team’s 57-29 win over Claremont in the first round of the Southern Section Division 2A playoffs. She needs four more points to set the school record for scoring. Gabby Conn holds the Saugus record with 1,267 points over her high school career at Saugus. Dawe, who’s headed to New York University for college, already has the single-season scoring record at Saugus with 562 points. Seventh-seeded Saugus might have a couple of more games left in its season as well. The Centurions have won three games in a row and 10 of their past 11. Norco is 4-5 in its past nine games, but beat Citrus Hill, 50-42, in the first round of the Division 2A playoffs.

North: Boys' basketball Top 10

January, 29, 2012
Crespi had a rough stretch losing three games in a row and dropping to No. 5 in the L.A. North top 10 rankings. The Celts snapped out of their little funk with a Mission League win over Sherman Oaks Notre Dame on Friday night.

Canyon saw its 12-game winning streak come to an end, and then lost two Foothill League games in a row. The Cowboys dropped out of the L.A. North top 10.

Enter Renaissance Academy, a tiny school in Sunland with a 18-3 record. The Wildcats have a tough game on Wednesday night against La Verne Lutheran, the No. 3 team in the ESPN Los Angeles rankings.

Here’s a look at the L.A. North top 10:
  1. (1) Woodland Hills Taft (19-3) – The Toreadors won two West Valley League games, including 70-58 over El Camino Real on Friday night. It was the 75th league win in a row for Taft and a much more comfortable margin of victory over El Camino Real. Taft won by one point, 45-44, the first time the two teams played this season. Anthony January scored 37 points for Taft against ECR in the latest meeting.
  2. (3) Alemany (20-3) – The Warriors have won six games in a row including five against Mission League opponents. Alemany is all alone in first place in the Mission League standings after Crespi stumbled with three losses in a row. Alemany and Crespi meet on Wednesday night.
  3. (5) Calabasas (19-3) – The Coyotes have won four games in a row and are in first place in the Marmonte League standings. They have a one-game lead over Royal. Coach Jon Palarz won the 300th game of his high school career as Calabasas beat Royal, 75-72, in double overtime on Wednesday night.
  4. (4) Royal (16-6) – The Highlanders have won seven of their past eight games. The only loss, 75-72, in double overtime to Calabasas. Royal bounced back with a 51-45 win over Simi Valley and is in second place in the Marmonte League standings.
  5. (2) Crespi (19-4) – The Celts lost three games in a row, all to Mission League teams, and fell into a tie for second place in the Mission League standings. Crespi ended its three-game losing streak by beating Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, 66-52, on Friday night. The return of Michael Milligan Jr., who missed two games with a concussion, helped end the Crespi skid.

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St. Francis upsets No. 6 Crespi, 66-52

January, 26, 2012

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE – Crespi is finding out how important Michael Milligan Jr. is to its basketball team.

St. Francis found an offensive weapon in Tei Vanderford that might prove valuable as the season unfolds.

Vanderford scored a career-high 24 points to lead St. Francis to a 66-52 win over Crespi, the No. 6 team in the ESPN Los Angeles basketball rankings, at St. Francis High School on Wednesday night.

“He’s a baseball player first. He did not play varsity basketball last year,” St. Francis co-coach Ray O’Brien said. “He’s just a great athlete that’s great under pressure. He’s gotten better every game. He’s learned our system.”

It was the third loss in a row for Crespi, playing without Milligan, the team’s 6-feet-4 forward. He has missed the past two games with a concussion, but coach Russell White said he expects Milligan to return for Crespi’s game against Sherman Oaks Notre Dame on Friday.

When asked if playing without Milligan makes that much of a difference, White said simply, “Apparently.”

“I didn’t know he was,” White said. “The proof is in the pudding.”

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Prep basketball: Loyola 70, Crespi 52

January, 23, 2012

LOS ANGELES -- With so many options on the offensive end of the floor, sometimes it is difficult for opponents to determine which Loyola prep basketball player on which to focus their collective energy. It was Justin Childress ' turn on Monday night.

The senior guard was seemingly unstoppable from start to finish against visiting Encino Crespi. The Celts had no answer for Childress, who ended up with 17 points for the Cubs in a 70-52 victory in a pivotal Mission League showdown.

“I know that I'm capable of doing my part, you know holding my own, when my number is called for this team,'' Childress said. “I felt like I owed it to my teammates to step up. We needed this win, it puts us right back into race for the title.''

With the victory, Loyola (16-2, 5-2) is a game behind first-place Mission Hills Alemany in the league standings. Moreover, the result gives the Cubs, No. 4 in the ESPNLosAngeles.com top 20 rankings, added confidence moving forward.

The Celts (18-3, 5-2), on the other hand, took a step back. Ranked No. 6 in the most recent poll, Crespi needs to rebound from the loss quickly.

“Justin got off tonight for us, and it's not all that surprising, he's been rock solid for us all year long,'' Loyola coach Jamal Adams said.

The Cubs have four players who average 10 or more points per game, with Childress being one of them, of course. Julian Harrell, Jacob Hazzard and Parker Jackson-Cartwright are the others.

Similar to the first half, Childress was hot in the second half. He scored five points and the Cubs extended their lead to 14 points at the the end of three.

It was more of the same in the fourth quarter as Childress & Co. successfully maintained a double-digit lead and were up by as many as 20 points during one stretch.

“It's hard to matchup against Loyola, it's hard to stop all of their key players. We had a tough time,'' Crespi coach Russell White said.

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