Los Angeles Preps: Southern Section Division 1AA
RANCHO CUCAMONGA – With mere seconds remaining on the fourth-quarter clock, Byron Wesley takes the obligatory peek at the scoreboard and fully understands how much is at stake and what needs to be done in a matter of moments.
His Etiwanda High boys' basketball team trails by a point, and accordingly, the ball is in hands. The pressure is on, no doubt.
Nevertheless, Wesley is calm, cool, collected.
The senior makes his initial move, a one-bounce dribble to the right at the top of the key. A subtle head and shoulders fake follows and freezes his opponent.
Suddenly, Wesley is just inside the free-throw line. An open look appears to present itself, but the rest of the defense is quickly collapsing around him.
Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock, 5, 4, 3, 2...
With ice seemingly in his veins, he elevates and releases a short jumper that slowly floats toward the rim and catches nothing but net as the buzzer sounds.
The shot is a game-winner, of course, and serves as another indication of how talented Wesley has been over the course of his decorated prep career thus far.
“I definitely want the ball in my hands when the game is on the line,'' said Wesley, a USC commit who ESPNU ranks as the Southland's No. 3 prospect.
“I feel like I can get to the basket, and if they double or anything, I'm a good enough passer to get the ball to my teammates. I don't think it's cocky at all. I think it's a certain confidence. You practice these shots all day in the gym when you're working out. If you feel good enough about it, you should want the ball in your hands. That's how I feel anyway.''
The series of moves was so successful, in fact, the 6-foot-3 senior guard from Lakewood High decided to go back to the well time after time in the second half. And why not? Thousand Oaks, after all, never figured out a way to shut him down.
Lanier was seemingly unstoppable from start to finish and nearly had a triple-double before ending up with 22 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists to guide visiting Lakewood to a 66-57 victory in a first-round game of Division 1AA play.
“Dominique was fun to watch tonight, I can say that much,'' Lakewood coach Matt Ruiz said. “He kept attacking and attacking, what a game.''
The fact Lanier & Co. did so well shouldn't come as a major surprise. Remember, the Lancers (17-10) play in the same league, the Moore, as the divisions top-seeded team, Long Beach Poly. Lakewood is a battled-tested bunch, no doubt about it.
Thousand Oaks (22-5), on the other hand, came in with momentum after finishing in a tie for first place in the Marmonte League, with Simi Valley.
Nevertheless, Lakewood opened up the game with a sense of urgency and Lanier's put back gave the Lancers a 15-14 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Victor Jones had his way with Thousand Oaks defense in the second quarter. He scored 10 points over the course of a three minute stretch to extend lead to 10 points with 5:23 left in the first half of play. And teammate Zach Puling knocked down a three-pointer just before the buzzer sounded to give Lakewood a 32-24 advantage at intermission.