Los Angeles Preps: prep basketball

SANTA ANA -- There's something about Jordan Adams lately. She has spent the entire season banged up and it seems as if she hasn't been healthy since she was a freshman.

But Adams, one of the top seniors in the nation, has come on in the playoffs like the leader she is. She scored 23 points, had nine assists and four blocked shots on Tuesday in the semifinals of the Southern California Regional Championships, lifting top-seeded Mater Dei to a 69-59 victory over fifth-seeded Fontana Summit.

The victory on Mater Dei's home floor sends the Monarchs to the SoCal Regional Finals on Saturday, 6 p.m., at Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario against third-seeded Long Beach Poly, a 64-50 winner over second-seeded Brea Olinda. Mater Dei (32-3) is two wins from winning its third consecutive state title.

Adams, the USC-bound point guard who had a big game in the second round -- an 80-52 victory over Huntington Beach -- also had six rebounds.

Adams wasn't the only Monarch who filled the basket. UCLA-bound Nirra Fields scored 25 points, had eight rebounds and five steals. Khalia Lark added 12 points.

Summit (30-4) scored the the first six points of the game as Ashley Weissmann connected on consecutive three-point baskets, but Mater Dei led after the firset quarter, 21-19, and at halftime, 36-30.

The Monarchs opened the lead to 33-22 in the third quarter but Summit cut its deficit to one point. Still, Mater Dei led by 16 in the fourth quarter.

Jillian Alleyne led Summit with 18 points. Wiessmann had 12 and Ajaee Foster 14.

SANTA ANA -- Katin Reinhardt may have been under the weather, but Xavier Johnson was on top of the clouds. Mater Dei, the defending champion in State Division I, opened up the Southern California Regional Championships with one of its big guns fighting flu.

But Coach Gary McKnight has more than Reinhardt in his holster.

Johnson scored 25 points and Mater Dei withstood a 3-point assault by Crescenta Valley to score a 66-47 home victory on Wednesday to advance to the second round of the tournament on Saturday.

The game was actually closer than it might appear by virtue of the Falcons' 3-point shooting. They made 8-of-19.

"I knew we were going to be in trouble because you tell guys they can shoot the three -- but they really have three or four guys who can shoot the ball -- you have a five-, six-point lead and it's looking good, boom-boom, it's tied," McKnight said.

But the star power of Mater Dei (30-2), and a 36-20 rebounding edge, helped the Monarchs avoid becoming victims of an upset.

"When you have three guys like Xavier, Stanley (Johnson) and Katin, two out of three guys will usually get you a win," McKnight said.

Stanley Johnson scored 11 points with four rebounds, four assists and four steals.

Mater Dei, which had a 15-5 lead at the end of the first quarter, trailed early in the third, 29-27. The Falcons made six of their eight 3-point baskets in that span, and took the lead when Davis Dragovich's driving layup fell through the net with 6 minutes 19 seconds remaining in the third.

For Crescenta Valley (26-6) , that was just about the last hurrah. Mater Dei scored the next eight points, and after CV's Dylan Kilgour sunk a three to cut his team's deficit to 35-32, Xavier Johnson took over.

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The spoils of victory for Mater Dei after winning boys' and girls' Southern Section Division 1AA championships over the weekend will be that they play home games until the Southern California Regional Final on March 17 at Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario.

The state championship weekend is March 23-24 in Sacramento.

Both Mater Dei programs were seeded No. 1 in the Division I State Championship tournament that is scheduled to begin on Wednesday. At Mater Dei, that means a doubleheader with the girls' team (29-3) tipping off against Burbank (19-12) at 6 p.m., followed by the boys against (29-2) Crescenta Valley at 7:30 p.m.

There were a pair of local teams that were seeded No. 2, both girls' programs. Brea Olinda (24-6), which led Mater Dei in the fourth quarter of the championship before falling, 54-47, is the No. 2 seed and opens El Cajon Granite Hills (27-4). Brea could face El Toro in the second round, and Mater Dei could face Huntington Beach provided all get past first-round opponents.

Huntington Beach (24-5) plays at No. 8 San Diego, and El Toro (26-3) plays at No. 7 Harbor City Narbonne (28-6).

Laguna Hills (22-8), which upset Mission Hills Alemany in double overtime, 59-55, to win the Division 3AA title, is the No. 2 seed in Division III and plays host to Marshall (20-10). The Hawks, who could face third-seeded Alemany in the finals, won a state title in 1997 and are the only county school in the division. Mission Bay (24-6) is seeded No. 1.

Orangewood Academy, which has 75 students, won the SS Division 6 championship Saturday with a 34-31 win over Santa Barbara Providence Hall in the first title game in any sport in school history. The victory helped the Spartans get seeded No. 4 in State Division V. They play Calexico Vincent Memorial (20-6) from the San Diego Section.

Foothill (25-5), which defeated Norco for the 2A title, is the fifth-seeded team in Division II and will play host to L.A. Monroe (22-10). Lynwood is the top-seeded team.

On the boys' side, Sunny Hills (25-7) is the lowest-seeded of 14 teams in Division II and will play at third-seeded San Diego Lincoln (21-9). La Costa Canyon (31-2) is the No. 1 team.

Other than Mater Dei in Division I, seventh-seeded Orange Lutheran (21-10) will get a home game against Dorsey (27-8), but the team that OLu beat in the Division 1A finals, Mission Viejo (27-4) will be on the road at eighth-seeded Del Mar Torrey Pines (22-10). The Mission-Torrey Pines winner will likely face Mater Dei in the second round.

Capistrano Valley (25-6), which lost to OLu in the semifinals, will open at second-seeded Long Beach Poly (27-2).

O.C.: Boys' basketball top 10

February, 26, 2012
In both Division 1AA and 1A, the top four seeds advanced to the semifinals. That means there will be some epic games on Tuesday, perhaps none sweeter than Capistrano Valley against Orange Lutheran. But if you're looking for a sweet ride, Sunny Hills is your team. The 11th-seeded Lancers have beaten two league champions, including third-seeded Riverside North.

1. Mater Dei (27-2): Top-seeded Monarchs reached the semifinals with win over Foothill, but it was the losing Knights who felt good about their performance. Next: vs. Long Beach Poly at Anaheim Arena, Tuesday.

2. Mission Viejo (26-3): Top-seeded Diablos needed overtime to beat Valencia West Ranch, but what's a little extra work to take another step toward the championship? Next: vs. Crescenta Valley, Tuesday.

3. Capistrano Valley (25-4): Second-seeded Cougars get a good start from Aleks Lipovic and roll into the semifinals. Next: at Orange Lutheran, Tuesday.

4. Orange Lutheran (19-10): Third-seeded Lancers get big efforts from Gabe York and Jordan Banks, but nearly blow 20-point lead to Corona. Next: vs. Capistrano Valley.

5. Ocean View (24-4): Long journey in the second round preceded obliteration of Sea Hawks' 18-game winning streak. A bitter defeat to Thousand Oaks, 82-65. Next: Season concluded.

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York helps OLu fend off Corona

February, 24, 2012

ORANGE -- The game was in the bag. All that separated third-seeded Orange Lutheran from reaching the Southern Section Division 1A semifinals was eight minutes.

And what an eight minutes it was.

For Corona.

Down by 20 points in the fourth quarter, the Panthers pulled to within five points -- a couple of easy 3-pointers for the long-distance assassins -- with 74 seconds remaining before Gabe York did his thing once again. York's free-throw shooting salvaged the night and Orange Lutheran scored a 79-70 victory on its home floor.

OLu will play host in the semifinals against second-seeded Capistrano Valley, a 67-55 winner at Vista Murrieta. Top-seeded Mission Viejo also won, winning 81-77 in overtime at Valencia West Ranch. Fourth-seeded Crescenta Valley won at home against fifth-seeded El Toro, 61-49, in the other quarterfinal.

York, an Arizona-bound guard, finished the night with 32 points, seven rebounds and five assists. He had 19 points at halftime and the Lancers (19-10) had a 62-42 lead after three quarters, but the team's shooting went cold and the play got sloppy. It wasn't until 3:10 remained in the game that York's drive to the basket netted the first field goal of the quarter for Lutheran, which made only 2-of-8 field goals in the period.

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RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA -- They may have finished in fifth place in the Trinity League, but Santa Margarita continued to roll in the Southern Section Division 3A boys’ basketball playoffs.

The fourth-seeded Eagles didn’t just advance to the semifinals with a 61-51 quarterfinal victory over Corona del Mar, but they knocked out the team that a year earlier had upset them in the first round, 64-40.

Revenge was an ample motivator, said Wolfie Wood, who scored 10 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter as Santa Margarita held off the Sea Kings, who cut a 20-point lead to as few as eight points.

Santa Margarita (17-13) now has the tall task of playing at top-seeded Mission Hills Alemany (26-4), which defeated La Puente Bishop Amat, 68-37, on Friday.

No matter what happens in the future, Tuesday marked the final home game in Jerry DeBusk’s 20-year coaching career at Santa Margarita Catholic.

“I felt like it was good for him, and good for the seniors, because it’s kind of us four bonding,” Wood said of himself, Connor Pope, Evan Edwards and DeBusk. “We know it’s the seniors and Coach DeBusk’s last game, so it was good for us to win this for him, and go out on a high note.”

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O.C.: Boys' basketball top 10

February, 20, 2012
Three Century League teams in Division 3AAA are history, but three others in higher divisions are still alive. Esperanza, seeded sixth in 3AAA, was upset by Lawndale in the second round and gets dropped from the top 10. For the moment, JSerra remains ahead of Tustin -- a team it beat previously -- but the Tillers can move up if they continue to win, and JSerra is going nowhere but down. Anaheim Canyon moves in. Ocean View has a big hurdle on Tuesday.

1. Mater Dei (25-2): Top-seeded Monarchs beat Temecula Chaparral in the first round as Xavier Johnson scoreD 17 against his former school. Next: vs. Palmdale, Tuesday.

2. Mission Viejo (24-3): Top-seeded Diablos cruised past La Sierra as Evan Zeller scored 17 and Max Redfield 13. Next: vs. Glendale, Tuesday.

3. Capistrano Valley (23-4): Second-seeded Cougars advance, and their chances of winning title are increased with the return of point guard Nick Thomas (knee), who scored 15 -- along with Aleks Lipovic -- in win over Marina. Next: vs. Walnut, Tuesday.

4. Orange Lutheran (17-11): Third-seeded Lancers get 24 points and a massive dunk from Arizona-bound Gabe York in 70-46 win over Dana Hills. Next: at Temecula Great Oak, Tuesday.

5. Ocean View (24-3): Sea Hawks won their 18th in a row as 7-footer Conor Clifford led the way with 19 points in 69-51 win over Redondo. Next: at Thousand Oaks, Tuesday.

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The upper divisions of the Southern Section boys' basketball playoffs began on Friday with mostly predictable results (OC teams emerged victorious from all seven games in which they were involved in Division 1A). In the lower divisions, they played the second round, and a darkhorse in 3AA -- seventh-seeded Servite -- pulled up lame before hitting the backstretch.

Biggest upset: In only its second varsity season, Yorba Linda (11-17) went into Servite (11-18), long known for its distracting fans and a veteran of the Trinity League gantlet, and scored a 62-55 second-round victory in Division 3AA behind the play of Sharthak Mukhopadhyay, who scored 21 points. Mukhopadhyay scored 14 in the fourth as the Mustangs stretched a 37-33 lead after three quarters to nine points with 3 1/2 minutes remaining -- only to watch Servite close to within two points with 33 seconds remaining as Tre Hunter hit a pair of threes and a free throw. Hunter scored 12 of his 27 in the fourth, but Yorba Linda made five of six free throws in the final half-minute to hold on. The Mustangs next play at Charter Oak, which KO'd second-seeded Santa Barbara San Marcos, 48-45.

Best performance: When you're 7 feet 5 inches, you're supposed to be dominating, and that was the case for Mamadou Ndiaye, who helped No. 7 Brethren Christian (24-5) win on the road at Temecula Linfield Christian, 66-54. The victory sets up BC with a home game in the quarterfinals against second-seeded Sun Valley Village Christian (26-2), which is a big hurdle toward winning the 5AA championship. Ndiaye scored 27 points, had 16 rebounds and blocked seven shots. He was 12 of 17 from the field, a performance that included nine dunks. He is averaging 23.4 points, 13.9 rebounds and five blocks. It wasn't completely Ndiaye's show: freshman Brandon Bryson scored 18, well above his 4.9 on the season.

Best comeback: There's no margin for error in a single-elimination playoff, so credit El Toro (21-8) for taking care of business in the second half of its 56-50 victory over Long Beach Cabrillo (10-15). The Chargers were down, 29-23, at halftime before a 16-8 run in the the third quarter to seize the lead. Jordan Faison scored 21, and Ryan Roberts 12 as fifth-seeded El Toro set up a second-round game at Huntington Beach (16-12) , a 52-28 winner over Katella.

Best start: Tesoro opened a 12-0 lead in the first quarter, which helped the Titans hold off Westminster, 48-38, as Jalen Bruce and Andrew Lee scored 11 apiece. Westminster (16-11) finished with a flourish -- the Lions outscored Tesoro (15-12) in the fourth quarter, 20-13, accounting for more than half their points in the final eight minutes. The Titans will host second-seeded Canyon Country Canyon on Tuesday in the second round of the 2AA playoffs.

Best backstory: The game finished the way many anticipated, but it's worth noting anyway. Two years ago, Xavier Johnson was playing at Temecula Chaparral. Then he transferred to Mater Dei, the Monarchs won a state title with a large group of underclassmen, and this year they are among the top teams in the nation. In the first round, Johnson's former team ventured into the Meruelo Events Center and faced their former player. Johnson and Katin Reinhardt scored 17 apiece to lead the top-seeded Monarchs to a 79-34 victory over Chaparral (17-11). Mater Dei (25-2) led after one quarter, 23-17, but Chaparral scored only four, seven and six points the remaining three quarters. It would have been a more interesting match-up if Johnson had stayed. He didn't. And the rest is history. And backstory.

Best highlight: A lot of dunks are overrated. This one isn't. Gabe York's one-handed slam off a lob pass was the defining moment of third-seeded Orange Lutheran's 70-46 victory over Dana Hills (11-15) in the first round of the 1A playoffs. The Lancers (17-10) got 24 points from the 6-foot-2 Arizona-bound guard -- and maybe got the highlight of the year.
The first round of the Southern Section boys' basketball playoffs began Wednesday, and in Orange County, there were a few seeded teams that held form, and two underdogs from the Century League that showed their bite.

Leading the upsets was El Modena (9-18), which finished last in the Century League but took down sixth-seeded Rancho Alamitos (20-5), the champion of the Garden Grove League, 55-54. Austin Payne scored 18 points and Luke Volk 10 as the Vanguards overcame a 43-39 deficit heading into the fourth quarter of the 3AA contest.

In Division 3AAA, Brea Olinda (16-12), an at-large team that finished fifth in the seven-team Century League, scored a 60-50 victory at 10th-seeded Woodbridge (19-8) as Adam Williams scored 13 and Michael Turner 10. Brea pulled away with about three minutes remaining and the score tied at 48-48.

Several county teams that were favored held serve, including No. 5 Tustin, which defeated Sonora, 65-48, and No. 6 Esperanza, which defeated Covina South Hills, 73-47.

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1. Mater Dei (17-2) — Blew away Middle Village (NY) Christ the King behind Xavier Johnson and Stanley Johnson and, after a slow start, did the same thing to JSerra in a Trinity League battle. Next: vs. Santa Margarita, Wednesday.

2. Capistrano Valley (19-2)Aleks Lipovic's three-pointer was the decisive blow to Mission Viejo's 18-game winning streak and South Coast League superiority. Next: at El Toro, Friday.

3. Mission Viejo (19-2) — Diablos long winning streak is history, but they can still salvage a share of the league title if they win out. Next: at Aliso Niguel, Friday.

4. JSerra (12-6) — Coming off win over Orange Lutheran, the Lions were hoping to make a better showing against Mater Dei; a 34-point loss indicates there's still work to do. Next: vs. St. John Bosco, Wednesday.

5. Orange Lutheran (12-6) — Without Gabe York (appendicitis) the losing streak reaches four games with setbacks to La Verne Lutheran and St. John Bosco; worse news, he may miss additional games when he's healthy for playing in an adult league game. Next: vs. Servite, Wednesday.

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O.C.: Cypress wins Elks

December, 31, 2011
Jimmy Jackson connected on six three-point baskets and scored 26 points to lead Cypress to a 63-45 victory Friday over Glendora in the championship of the Elks Holiday Classic at Century High.

Jackson, the tournament MVP, was complemented by A.J. Adams, who scored 18 as Cypress won for the 14th time in 15 games. Glendora fell to 11-4.

Cypress coach Jeff Russell said his team has a lot of confidence that it can match any team's challenge right now.

In the third place game, Paramount beat Placentia Valencia in overtime, 64-56.
Senior guard Gabe York scored 30 points, eight of them in overtime after hitting a three-pointer at the buzzer at the end of regulation, to lead Orange Lutheran to a 68-60 boys' basketball victory over Foothill in the finals of the Orange Holiday Classic.

York's tournament MVP performance Friday at Chapman University helped the Lancers (10-2) salvage a game it almost lost. It didn't lead at any point in the fourth quarter against Foothill (12-2).

The Arizona-bound York scored 11 points in the first quarter and reportedly became his school's all-time leading scorer.

It was the second consecutive night that OLu was able to rally late to pull out a victory; it defeated Anaheim Canyon in the semifinals, 77-67, by outscoring the Comanches 26-11 in the fourth quarter.

Canyon took the third-place game with a 46-44 victory over Chino Hills.

Find the wrap of the final day of the tournament here, including comments from York.
Some of the top boys' basketball teams in Orange County are staying local this week, though predictably Mater Dei is not. The Monarchs (8-1), whose Xavier Johnson got plenty of attention last week in the City of Palms Classic, will be in the Palm Springs area for the MaxPreps Holiday Classic at Cathedral City High. Mater Dei is obviously hoping to finish better than the fifth place, which it did in Florida.

Locally, the Orange Holiday Classic is at Chapman University (title game Thursday), the Century Elks Classic is at Century High (title game Friday), and the Coast Classic is at Estancia (title game Friday).

Down Interstate 5, the Holiday Classic in San Diego will have 78 teams across five divisions. There aren't any O.C. teams in the National Division, but there are some in the other divisions.

It should be an exciting week.

O.C.: Sophomore Ballestero "next in a long line"

December, 27, 2011
One of the standards of the holiday season is the Orange Holiday Classic, and it opened Monday at Chapman University with a dandy game between Anaheim Canyon and Yorba Linda. Canyon won, 54-50, as sophomore Anthony Ballestero scored a career-high 18 points, 14 in the fourth quarter.

The game featured 23 lead changes and eight ties. Coach Nate Harrison said of Ballestero, "We've had great point guards here over the last seven years, and he's just the next in a long line of talented players."

Read the full account of Ballestero's heroics here.

In addition to Canyon, the tournament features Orange Lutheran, Tustin and Foothill.