Los Angeles Preps: Tray Meeks

Pondering public vs. private dilemma

March, 27, 2012

Should California separate public and private schools during the CIF basketball playoffs? That was one of the questions kicked around during the CIF state basketball finals in Sacramento over the weekend.

Two states, New York and Texas, split up private and public schools in the playoffs.

In California, there are 1,522 schools and 1,400 of them are public. Private schools won all 10 of the CIF state titles. Fifteen of the 20 teams in the CIF state finals were from private schools.

The J.W. North and Laguna Beach girls -- both public schools -- lost their championship games. The Sheldon boys from Sacramento, with a home-court crowd, played in the Division I championship game and were no match for Mater Dei, which won its record-setting ninth CIF state title.

Berkeley lost the Division I girls final for the second year in a row to Mater Dei. La Costa Canyon from Carlsbad lost to Archbishop Mitty from San Jose in the Division II boys final.

CIF Executive Director Marie Ishida told the Sacramento Bee that the playoffs have become a system of have and have nots.

The private schools have greater resources, better facilities, stable coaching staffs and supportive parents and boosters. Public schools do not always have the best equipment, coaches, support, gyms and training facilities.

Would California be better off with separate playoffs for private and public schools?

The J.W. North girls from Riverside made the biggest argument for keeping the system the way it is.

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Alemany rallies to win state crown

March, 24, 2012

SACRAMENTO -- For a time, it looked as if Alemany might run out of players before the final seconds ticked off in the CIF State Division III boys' basketball final on Saturday.

Two players fouled out, but Alemany coach Tray Meeks said he wasn’t concerned about how many players had to sit out the final minutes.

The first to go was Jerico Richardson. Next was Bear Henderson. But Alemany persevered, as Meeks said, and won its first CIF state championship, 71-67, over Sacred Heart Cathedral at Power Balance Pavilion.

“We hate to lose them, don’t get me wrong,” Meeks said. “We have enough talent on this team to persevere. It shows the heart of this team.”

Down eight points at halftime, Alemany (33-4) rallied in the second half to take a four-point lead in the third quarter. The Warriors outscored Sacred Heart Cathedral, 22-11, and went on a 12-2 run in the third quarter.

“We lost to a very good team, a team that didn’t quit,” Sacred Heart Cathedral coach Darrell Barbour said. “The third quarter was critical. The first half, I thought we were the better team. That’s basketball. You have two halves to play."

Alemany took the lead on a dunk by Marqueze Coleman with 2:30 in the third quarter. It gave Alemany a 50-49 lead, erasing the eight-point, halftime deficit, and came in the middle of the 12-2 run to end the third quarter.

Coleman scored a game-high 27 points and had nine rebounds. He was 9-for-17 from the field and 7-for-9 from the free-throw line.

Alemany point guard Max Guercy hit a 3-pointer during the third-quarter rally. He finished with 19 points and eight rebounds.

“It was a tale of two halves,” Meeks said. “These guys just played their hearts out the rest of the way. We played how we wanted to play.”

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Alemany takes Division III thriller

March, 17, 2012

ONTARIO -- Sometimes the spotlight shines brightest on players like K.J. Moffett. The junior guard won't soon forget his moment.

Moffett's sprawling reverse layup with under two seconds remaining carried the Alemany boys' basketball team to the CIF Southern California Division III regional championship Saturday afternoon at Citizens Bank Arena. It was his only field goal in the Warriors' thrilling 62-61 victory over St. John Bosco but it secured a trip to Sacramento, where they'll meet NorCal champion San Francisco Sacred Heart Cathedral.

The ball reached Moffett's hands on a pass from teammate Marqueze Coleman, a top-scoring wing headed to Nevada. The lesser-known player made it count, driving baseline and converting on a difficult attempt.

"It didn't seem real," Moffett said. "It was a great feeling."

Alemany led by as many as 18 in the first half but needed a comeback late. Bosco went on a furious rally, jumping ahead by six with under two minutes left. The Braves led by one following Kameron Murrell's lay in with 11 seconds remaining.

"Wow is the only thing I can say about that game," Alemany coach Tray Meeks said.

Alemany (32-4), the Southern Section Division 3A champion, was led by Coleman's 24 points and point guard Max Guercy's 20.

Isaac Hamilton had 32 points and 11 rebounds for Bosco, which reached the regional final with a thrilling victory against Southern Section Division 3AAA champion Pasadena earlier in the week.

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L.A. North: Five things from the weekend

February, 6, 2012
  1. The CIF basketball playoffs don’t start for another week, but some of the top teams in the Southern Section and City Section got a taste of the postseason in the Nike Extravaganza at Meter Dei High School and at the Alemany Showcase this weekend. Alemany played Price in a matchup of top-20 teams in the ESPN Los Angeles rankings. Alemany won, 82-76, and Warriors coach Tray Meeks said it was important for his players to compete against an unfamiliar opponent. The Mission League has quality programs in Crespi, Harvard-Westlake and Loyola, but facing a team as talented as Price is good preparation for playoffs, Meeks said. “No disrespect to Price, but this is not a different level,” he said. “The Mission League is ranked No. 1 in the state for a reason. That’s because it’s tough night in, night out. This is just another tough game. It’s different because we don’t know one another. For the Mission League, it’s different because we all know one another. That’s where the Mission League is different. We all know one another, whereas we get a Price, we’re adjusting throughout the game, and that makes it a tough challenge. That makes it more like a playoff game.” Alemany point guard Max Guercy rallied his team in the second half. He hit three 3-pointers in the span of two minutes and helped Alemany erase a nine-point deficit. His first 3-pointer beat the buzzer to end the third quarter. In the first half, Price bottled up Guercy and held him to six points. “They were trying to get the ball out of his hands,” Meeks said. “They were doing a good job of doing that. He just adjusted and that three got him going." Alemany leads the Mission League standings with a 9-1 record. The Warriors have two more league games, beginning tonight against Sherman Oaks Notre Dame. Loyola is in second place in the Mission League with an 8-3 record. The Cubs have one more league game, on Wednesday against St. Francis.
  2. Woodland Hills Taft made a playoff statement with a 73-57 win over Loyola in the Nike Extravaganza in another matchup of top-20 teams in the ESPN LA rankings. Anthony January, who had to wait until December to play for Taft after transferring from Compton, scored 26 points and has been integral in Taft’s 12-game winning streak. Brandon Perry scored 13 points for Taft, but it was his defense against high-scoring Julian Harrell, who is averaging a team-high 16 points, that stood out. He held Harrell to 10 points. Taft wraps up its West Valley League schedule this week against Birmingham and Chatsworth and will wait to see where it is seeded in the City Section Division I playoffs.

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Alemany comes back to beat Price

February, 5, 2012

MISSION HILLS -- Max Guercy’s 3-point buzzer-beater at the end of the third quarter ignited Alemany to a 82-76, come-from-behind, win over Price in the Alemany To The Rack Showcase on Saturday night.

Down by 10 points in the closing seconds of the third quarter, Guercy nailed a 3-pointer to cut the Price lead to seven, 61-54. Alemany came out in the fourth quarter and went on a 12-1 run to eventually take a four-point lead, 66-62.

Guercy hit two more 3-pointers and scored 10 of Alemany’s 12 points during the run. He finished with 19 points, 13 in the second half.

Alemany coach Tray Meeks said Guercy’s 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter woke up his team.

“We were just in a funk,” Meeks said. “It’s a long season and I know they are a little bit tired. But they fought and that was a championship fight to me.”

Alemany (21-3) took charge of the game early and was up 13-4 in the first quarter. But Price rallied at the end of the first period and closed within one point, 15-14.

Price (17-6) went on a 14-8 run to start the second quarter and took a five-point lead 28-23. By the end of the first half, Price was up 38-32.

Kahlil Green scored the first 10 points for Price to start the third quarter and extended his team’s lead to 10 points at one point. Green scored a game-high 31 points.

Bear Henderson hit a 3-pointer for Alemany that cut the Price lead to six points, 48-42. He finished the game with 17 points and was one of five players for Alemany in double figures.

At the end of the third quarter, Guercy hit a 3-pointer, only his third field goal of the game, and sliced the Price lead to seven points.

Guercy went on a scoring binge to start the fourth quarter. He hit two more 3-pointers to cut the Price lead to two points, 62-60. With a little over five minutes to play in the game, he ripped the ball out of a Price’s players hands and scored to give Alemany a four-point lead, 66-62.

Alemany didn’t give up the lead after that point. But three players from Alemany, including Guercy, fouled out of the game in the final four minutes.

Other games in the Alemany To The Rack Showcase:

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Alemany 69, Loyola 63

January, 7, 2012

MISSION HILLS -- Losing was not an option for Max Guercy.

Trailing by double digits in the third quarter, the senior point guard for Mission Hills Alemany took over. Guercy scored 10 straight points, 13 over an eight-minute stretch, to spark a comeback and guide the host Warriors to 69-63 Mission League victory over Los Angeles Loyola.

“Max Guercy is a stud, there's not much more that you can say about him,'' Warriors coach Tray Meeks said. “Honestly, he did what a senior is supposed to do in those kind of scenarios. He's a Division I player, in my book. Someone needs to get this kid and have him sign a scholarship.''

A team that figures to be ranked among the premier programs in the ESPNLosAngeles.com top 20 rankings throughout this season, the Cubs (11-2, 0-2) were in one of those must-win situations in the league race. The setback could lead them to fall out of contention.

None of that mattered to the Guercy and the Warriors (13-2, 2-0).

Down 37-25 to start the second half, Guercy got hot. He converted a four-point play, knocking down a three-pointer and hitting the subsequent free-throw. A pair of layups followed. His three-pointer tied up the score, 50-50, with :22 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

“The basket was looking really big, I couldn't miss. I felt like I was in one of those zones, as they say,'' Guercy said. “There comes a time, a point in these kind of big games, where you need to dig down deep and do what's best for the team. That was my only goal.''

Mission accomplished. The 5-foot-6 floor general did his job. Without any college offers to speak of, the perception about Guercy could be on the verge of changing.

All told, he finished with 21 points, six rebounds and five assists.

Make no mistake, Guercy had plenty of help along the way. Nevada-bound Marqueze Coleman played well from start to finish and had 19 points. Football player, Jerico Richardson, a UCLA commit, added 14 points of his own. Bear Henderson ended up with 14 points.

Jacob Hazzard did his best to keep the Cubs close. He scored 15 points, all coming on three-pointers. Justin Childress added 13 and Julian Harrell finished with 12 points.

Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.