Los Angeles Preps: Paulin Mpawe

Inland Empire: Centennial 89, Redlands East Valley 73

March, 8, 2011

CORONA—One of the best aspects of Southern California Regional basketball playoffs is they give teams a second chance.

The Corona Centennial boys’ team is grateful to have another opportunity to end its season on a winning after losing by 16 points Saturday against Long Beach Poly in the Southern Section Division 1AA championship game.

The Huskies weren’t about to let this one slip away.

Gelaun Wheelwright scored 31 points and Dominique Dunning had 28 to lead the second-seeded Huskies to an 89-73 victory Tuesday night against visiting Redlands East Valley in the opening round of the Division 1 regionals.

“Our team really came out focused and ready to play so we can get another crack at them,” Wheelwright said of the top-seeded Jackrabbits.

Of course, a number of talented teams still stand between Centennial and Poly, but the Huskies are prepared to go through anybody. They already have a victory this season against third-seeded Woodland Hills Taft.

“We know we can compete with anybody in there,” Dunning said. “We’re just as confident as anybody else.”

Redlands East Valley (25-8) stayed with Centennial (28-4) during the first half, thanks in part to 14 first-half points from REV guard Greg Dishman. Leading by nine points at halftime, the Huskies used a 10-0 run early in the third quarter to take a 55-37 lead and the Wildcats never pulled back within single digits.

With Long Beach State-bound point guard Michael Caffey nursing a sprained ankle for much of the second half, Wheelwright and Dunning picked up the slack. Wheelwright scored 19 points after halftime and Dunning had 16.

Wheelwright sank five three-point baskets.

“I guess today was my night,” he said. “Luckily they were falling.”

Redlands East Valley guard Terrell Todd said it wasn’t Centennial’s shooting ability that put the Wildcats in a hole, but its speed.

“They were faster than us,” Todd said. “We never played a different team like that. They were fast, pushed the ball and we couldn’t handle it.”

Wheelwright said he sensed the Huskies defensive pressure was also giving REV problems.

“Our pressure helped a lot,” he said. “They were nervous when they got into the traps and we forced a lot of turnovers.”

Dishman did his part, making a season-high seven three-pointers and scoring a season-best 28 points. Todd, the team’s leading scorer at 20.3 points a game, finished with 14 and Pepperdine-bound center Paulin Mpawe had 10.

Centennial will play host to Westchester on Thursday in their second round game.

Inland Empire: Corona Centennial set to host Redlands East Valley

March, 7, 2011
Southern California Regional boys’ basketball playoffs

Division 1

First round

Redlands East Valley at Corona Centennial, Tuesday, 7 p.m.

Five keys to the game:

1. Corona Centennial is seeded No. 2 in this bracket, mainly due to the efforts of its Big Three. Michael Caffey has signed with Long Beach State, Dominique Dunning with New Mexico and Gelaun Wheelwright with Weber State. Caffey began the season as the third option but he has elevated himself into the player most likely to take the big shot down the stretch. He was pivotal in the Huskies’ victory against Mater Dei in the Southern Section Division 1AA semifinals.

2. How will the guard-oriented Huskies handle Paulin Mpawe, the 6-9 center for REV who has signed with Pepperdine? Centennial didn’t have an answer for California-bound center Ryan Anderson in the Southern Section Division 1AA championship game Saturday at the Anaheim Convention Center. The 6-10 senior for Long Beach Poly had 18 points and 21 rebounds in the 68-52 victory. Mpawe is averaging 14 points and 11.2 rebounds.

3. You can pretty much bet the farm that the Huskies will string together a sizable run during a game, usually turning a close contest into a route. REV needs to be cognizant of when that’s occurring and use its timeouts wisely. With Mpawe and leading scorer Terrell Todd, a senior guard, the Wildcats have the pieces to slow the game into a half-court tug-of-war, but they need to limit their turnovers, especially while bringing the ball upcourt.

4. The Southern California Regionals are different than the section playoffs in that the higher-seeded team gets home-court advantage. Centennial hasn’t played a whole lot of home games this season. This will be just its ninth at Centennial High this season, and second of the postseason. Still, they are 8-0 at home and haven’t lost in their own gymnasium since January 2009.

5. REV hasn’t played since Feb. 25, when the Wildcats lost to Los Angeles Loyola, 90-60, in a Division 1A semifinal at Cal State Los Angeles and, for all intents and purposes, checked out of that game about the second quarter. Centennial, on the other hand, is fresh off their loss to Long Beach Poly and hungry to get back to its winning ways. If staying in rhythm is the key to scoring the basketball, the Huskies have that advantage as well.

Inland Empire and LA South: Loyola 90, Redlands East Valley 60

February, 25, 2011

LOS ANGELES — After running out of luck in the semifinals of the Southern Section boys’ basketball playoffs the last three seasons, Los Angeles Loyola left nothing to chance Friday night against Redlands East Valley.

The top-seeded Cubs jumped all over No. 5 REV in the first half of the Division 1A game at Cal State Los Angeles, allowing them to enjoy the view down the stretch in the 90-60 victory.

Loyola (23-5) will play third-seeded Capistrano Valley in the championship game March 5 at the Anaheim Convention Center.

Joe Stein, a 6-foot-4 senior guard, finished with 23 points for the Cubs, including 13 in the first half, and teammate Julian Harrell, a 6-6 junior forward, totaled 10 of his 18 points in the opening half.

Loyola opened up a 28-14 lead after the first quarter and stretched it to 51-29 by halftime. The Cubs were the better team, but they didn't take anything for granted at the opening tip.

“We came out, brought it to them from the beginning of the game, showed them we were a better team,” Stein said. “We were more physical, we had better shooters. They had an advantage with the height inside, but we just played more physical than them and brought it to them in the first half. They were just too tired in the second half.”

The Wildcats (25-6) featured 6-9 senior center Paulin Mpawe, who signed with Pepperdine. He scored 13 points, just one below his average but missed several in-close shots. The Cubs did a much better job defending REV’s leading scorer, senior guard Terrell Todd, who came in averaging 20.7 points but was limited to 10.

The only bright spot was senior forward Mark Esho, who scored a team-high 14 points, more than double his season average. That was little consolation for Esho, however.

“I don’t know what happened,” he said. “We’re the starting five, we should be out there dominating. We didn’t play to our potential, but they played a good game. They played like the top-seeded team.”

REV coach Bill Berich also felt blindsided by the Cubs but admitted they were simply the stronger team.

“You would have liked to have been in a position to compete,” he said. ”I think if we play them five times, I don’t know if we win one.”

Berich took solace that the Wildcats played Loyola fairly even in the second half. Berich said he overheard some Loyola players say the Wildcats gave up during the game, but he didn’t see it that way.

“It wasn’t like we rolled over and quit,” he said. “I don’t think we played great but I thought we played the whole game. I was happy with that.”

Inland Empire: Half dozen boys' basketball teams remain alive

February, 23, 2011
And then there were six.
Now that the Southern Section boys’ basketball playoffs have been pared down to the semifinals, the Inland Empire is left with just a few precious pieces still in the game.
Here’s a rundown:


Of the I.E. teams still playing, the Eagles are by far the most familiar with this time of year. They jumped all over host Valencia in a Division 1AA quarterfinal Tuesday night, scoring the first 10 points en route to 70-58 victory and their fourth straight trip to the section semifinals. Etiwanda, seeded fourth, moves on to play a familiar foe in top-seeded Long Beach Poly. Etiwanda beat the Jackrabbits in the semifinals last season, then lost to them in the Southern California Regionals.


The Big Three carried the Huskies to a 74-58 victory Tuesday against visiting Upland. Dominique Dunning scored 26 points, Michael Caffey had 19 and Gelaun Wheelwright 13 for third-seeded Centennial. The Huskies, who have won 18 consecutive games, will meet second-seeded Mater Dei in the Tuesday’s semifinals at the Anaheim Convention Center. Mater Dei ended the season for Rialto Eisenhower, 82-62.


Another team that appears to be peaking at the right time is the Wildcats. They went to Downey on Tuesday night and had no problem knocking off the fourth-seeded Vikings, 71-54, in a Division 1A quarterfinal. Led by senior point guard Terrell Todd and Pepperdine-bound center Paulin Mpawe, REV has the kind of inside-outside punch that can carry a team in the postseason. The fifth-seeded Wildcats will face a tough test in the semifinals against top-seeded Loyola, however.


The sixth-seeded SkyHawks clawed back from a six-point fourth-quarter deficit in a Division 2AA quarterfinal Tuesday against third-seeded Anaheim Canyon and won, 70-63, to advance to the semifinals for the second straight season. Dorian Cason has been one of the I.E.’s most improved players throughout the season and he finished with 22 points, including 17 in the first half. Cason, a 6-6 senior forward, will be matched against 6-10 senior center Isaac Neilson of Mission Viejo in Friday’s semifinals, which will be hosted by Summit at a to-be-determined neutral site.


The Indians won their second straight playoff game by the score of 49-48 to reach the semifinals in Division 3AA for the second consecutive season. Unlike the second-round game at Arroyo Grande, when second-seeded Palm Springs held on for the victory, the Indians rallied from 12 points down in the fourth quarter against visiting La Habra Sonora. Palm Springs will play third-seeded La Canada in Friday’s semifinals. The game will be played at a neutral site but the Indians have been designated the home team, so it will likely be played somewhere in the desert.


The city of Redlands has not one, but two teams in the semifinals. The Bulldogs knocked off Trinity Classical Academy of Valencia, 57-43, in a Division 6A quarterfinal Tuesday. Despite getting out-sized by 6-6 forward James Brooks of first-year Trinity Classical, Kamaal Thomas came through with 17 points and Mikeal Anderson had 14 for third-seeded RAA, which will play second-seeded Boron in Friday’s semifinals.
Catching up on the second round of the Southern Section boys’ basketball playoffs, who would have thought Riverside North and Moreno Valley Vista del Lago would be the Inland Empire's last remaining teams in Division 2A?

But the 15th-seeded Huskies upset second-seeded Elsinore in overtime Friday night, and Vista del Lago beat Lancaster Eastside in a matchup of unseeded teams.

Here’s a rundown of the Inland Empire highlights.

Biggest upset outside of Elsinore: Murrieta Valley lost to 12th-seeded Valencia, 77-70, in Division 1AA, but that wasn’t such a shocker once it was learned the fifth-seeded Nighthawks would be without leading scorer Justin Gudger, who broke his ankle in a first-round overtime victory against Corona.

In the lower half of the same bracket, 11th-seeded Upland knocked off sixth-seeded Pasadena, 56-51, an impressive result, but again not too surprising. The Highlanders entered the playoffs riding a four-game winning streak that included a win against fourth-seeded Etiwanda.

Most fantastic finish: After driving 300 miles to play Arroyo Grande in Division 3AA, second-seeded Palm Springs went back and forth against the 15th-seeded Eagles. The Indians led by two with 0.2 seconds remaining and Kelly Shepard at the free-throw line for Arroyo Grande. Shepard missed the first attempt, then tried to intentionally miss the second but it rattled in, ending his team’s chance for an upset.

Defensive play of the night: With the score tied and about 20 seconds remaining in the Division 1AA game between Rialto Eisenhower and host Lakewood, guard Devin Garner stole the ball and raced for a layup at the other end, giving the seventh-seeded Eagles the lead for good in the 65-61 victory.

Beacon off the bench: Victorville Silverado reserve forward Rohjon Brett scored a team-high 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds in a 65-59 victory against Palmdale in a Division 1A game. Brett, a 6-foot-5 junior, had not scored more than 10 points in a game this season. His three-point basket with 4:10 remaining gave the sixth-seeded Hawks a six-point lead.

Another believer: The most under-appreciated team in the playoffs continues to be Fontana Summit. The SkyHawks are seeded sixth in Division 2AA but continue to perform like a title contender after clobbering host Huntington Beach, 68-50.

Honorable Mention: Terrell Todd scored 26 points and Paulin Mpawe had 17 points and 19 rebounds for fifth-seeded Redlands East Valley in a 77-71 victory against San Bernardino Cajon in Division 1A. ... Byron Wesley had 25 points and 14 rebounds to lead Etiwanda to a decisive 86-54 victory against visiting Chino Hills in Division 1AA. ... Zeke DeBlase scored 26 points but eighth-seeded Victorville Victor Valley came up short against No. 9 Villa Park in Division 2AA and lost, 62-59.

Here’s all the scores involving I.E. teams:

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Inland Empire: Boys' basketball playoff preview

February, 13, 2011
The Southern Section boys’ basketball playoff pairings were released Sunday and Inland Empire teams were seeded high in several divisions. Here’s a rundown:

Division 1AA

Etiwanda lost two games in the final two weeks of the season, causing the Eagles to fall a couple spots in the seeding order. Instead of entering the postseason seeded No. 2, the Eagles are No. 4, one behind Corona Centennial, who they beat back in December. MurrietaValley is seeded fifth, Rialto Eisenhower is seventh and Eastvale Roosevelt is 10th. Murrieta Valley won the Division 2AA title last season and Eisenhower won in Division 2A.

Division 1A

RedlandsEast Valley is seeded fifth after finishing second to Eisenhower in the Citrus Belt League. The Wildcats open Wednesday against visiting Dana Hills, and Pepperdine-bound center Paulin Mpawe should have a strong game against the undersized Dolphins. Victorville Silverado was seeded sixth and received a first-round bye because the Hawks were champions of the Desert Sky League.

Division 2AA

Sixth-seeded Fontana Summit certainly fits the bill of a dark horse in this division. The SkyHawks are playing their best basketball of the season, carrying an 11-game winning streak into the postseason. They played Riverside Patriot on Thursday in a game that would determine the Sunkist League title and posted an impressive 70-31 victory. Other teams to watch are eighth-seeded Victorville Victor Valley and 10th-seeded Ontario Colony.

Division 2A

Elsinore was seeded second after running away withthe Sunbelt League title. The Tigers enter the postseason on a nine-game winning streak and open the playoffs against visiting Westminster, which advanced with an 8-18 record. San Bernardino, which won its first league title since 1993, is seeded sixth and Chino Hills Ayala is 10th.

Division 3AA

Second-seeded Palm Springs posted an impressive 22-1 record during the regular season, its only loss coming by two points against Palos Verdes Peninsula, the top-seeded team in Division 2A.

Division 3A

Palm Desert, which finished runner up to Palm Springs in the Desert Valley League, is the highest-seeded I.E. team in this division at No. 7. The Aztecs face an interesting first-round match up against visiting Lakewood Artesia, once one of the elite programs in Southern California but now just fourth-place team from the Suburban League.

Inland Empire: Five things from the weekend

January, 31, 2011
1. Huge upset in the Inland Valley League on Friday night as the Moreno Valley Canyon Springs boys’ basketball team surged to a 13-point halftime lead against visiting Moreno Valley Rancho Verde and held on for a 55-50 victory. Rancho Verde came in ranked No. 4 in the Inland Empire by ESPNLA and undefeated in league play over the last two seasons. With the victory, the Cougars (13-10, 8-2) moved within a game of the Mustangs (18-4, 9-1). Rajshah Head scored 16 points and Taj Spencer had 14 for Canyon Springs.

2. Regardless of the sport, there’s usually never a dull moment when Redlands and Redlands East Valley get together. The boys’ basketball teams clashed again Thursday night and it was REV coming out on top for the second time this season, 74-62, at Redlands. Paulin Mpawe, a 6-foot-9 center for REV who’s headed to Pepperdine, had 18 points and 18 rebounds. Redlands senior guard Ashton Robinson, scored 29 points but actually lowered his scoring average to 34, which is still second best in the state. REV improved to 19-4, 5-1. The Terriers dropped to 15-6, 3-3.

3. Etiwanda came up two victories short of matching its 23-game winning streak to start the season three years ago. The Eagles were defeated Saturday night, 70-64, by Los Angeles Loyola at the Fairfax State Classic Preview, dropping their record to 21-1. Etiwanda has had some close calls this season but the Eagles actually let this one get away, building several double-digit leads before unraveling in the fourth quarter. Byron Wesley scored 30 points for Etiwanda, but only four in the fourth. The Eagles won’t have time to sulk as they travel to second-place Glendora for a key Baseline League game Tuesday.

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Inland Empire: Boys' basketball Games of the Week

January, 13, 2011
Etiwanda (16-0, 2-0) at Upland (12-4, 1-1), Friday, 6:30 p.m. – Upland, ranked No. 5 in the Inland Empire by ESPNLA, may have got caught looking ahead to No. 1 Etiwanda, losing a Baseline League game Tuesday against Rancho Cucamonga Los Osos, 68-63. This game will feature last season’s league co-most valuable players, Upland guard John Gilliam and Etiwanda wing Byron Wesley.

Rialto Eisenhower (9-6, 1-0) at Redlands East Valley (14-3, 1-0), Friday, 6 p.m.– Eisenhower is the three-time defending Citrus Belt League champion but they figure to be tested by the size of Redlands East Valley, led by Paulin Mpawe, a 6-foot-9 post player who signed with Pepperdine. Mpawe scored a season-high 30 points and grabbed 16 rebounds Tuesday in a 96-92 victory against crosstown rival Redlands.

La Verne Damien (14-1, 1-0) at Chino Hills (14-3, 1-0), Friday, 6:30 p.m. – Chino Hills is the four-time defending Sierra League champion but the Huskies will have their hands full against Damien and 6-7 junior forward Chris Reyes, a first-team all-league pick last season who is averaging 16.4 points and nine rebounds.

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Inland Empire: Boys basketball preview

December, 3, 2010
Top 10

1. Etiwanda – The Eagles return five of their top seven players from a team that lost by three points to Mater Dei in the Southern Section Division 1AA final. Byron Wesley, a 6-foot-5 small forward who has signed with USC, is one of the top players in the state. Running the point will be Jordan Daniels, undersized at 5-8 but a lightning-quick ball handler who is drawing interest from mid-major colleges.

2. Corona Centennial – The Huskies finished 25-5 last season, losing by six points to Etiwanda in a section quarterfinal. Dominique Dunning, a 6-4 wing who has signed with New Mexico, was the Big VIII League most valuable player last season and a first-team Division. I-AA selection. He’ll have plenty of support with the return of second-team senior guards Michael Caffey and Gelaun Wheelwright.

3. Murrieta Valley – The Nighthawks return their top three players from last season’s team that won the Division 2AA title. Justin Gudger, a 6-4 senior forward, averaged a team-high 17 points and six rebounds and was named the Division 2AA player of the year. Austin Quick, a 6-3 senior guard, averaged 14.1 points before missing the postseason with a knee injury, and 6-1 senior guard Mark Tarabilda averaged 8.1.

4. Redlands East Valley – The Wildcats return their top three scorers, leading rebounder and top two assist leaders from a team that finished 17-11 last season. Paulin Mpawe, a 6-9 senior center who signed with Pepperdine, averaged 9.4 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.4 blocks while earning first-team all-Citrus Belt League honors. Another first-teamer, 5-11 senior guard Terrell Todd, averaged a team-high 16.7 points, and 5-7 senior guard Greg Dishman averaged 10.1 points and 3.9 assists.

5. UplandJohn Gilliam, a 6-2 senior guard, returns after leading the 21-9 Highlanders to the Division 1AA quarterfinals. He averaged a team-high 21.2 points last season, and was named the Baseline League co-most valuable player and a Division 1AA first-team selection. Myles Pearson, a 5-11 junior guard also returns. He averaged 9.7 points last season and a team-high 2.7 assists.

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