Los Angeles Preps: Trinity League

While many teams played wild card games on Tuesday, Orange Lutheran and Mater Dei had the luxury of biding their time. The Trinity League rivals ended the regular season ranked 1-2 in the Southern Section Division 1 baseball rankings as well as 1-2 in the state, and 1-2 in the nation by some accounts.

Lutheran (21-4), led by Conner Sullivan and left-handed pitcher Art Vidrio, and Mater Dei (21-5), led by Ty Moore, open the first round of the section playoffs on Friday at home.

The Trinity League title is the third for OLu in even-numbered years; the Lancers also won in 2008 and 2010, so you have to figure the program is looking forward to 2014.

But not before finishing 2012 in style.

The section released the baseball pairings on Monday, and while some schools were left scrambling for buses to play wild card games, OLu and Mater Dei could rest easy. The Lancers are the top-seeded team by virtue of winning the league title by taking two of three from Mater Dei and will open the playoffs against Long Beach Millikan (11-17) or host Moorpark (15-12), which will be playing to get into the first round.

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St. John Bosco's Falah getting attention

February, 22, 2012
Eventually, St. John Bosco offensive lineman Nico Falah says he wants to become a nutritionist. For now he'll settle for a healthy dose of scholarship offers.

The 6-foot-5 rising senior currently has five offers -- Arizona, Oregon State, San Jose State, UCLA and Utah State -- and more figure to head his way. Falah already attended USC's "Junior Day" camp and plans to attend UCLA's version this week.

"I'm not favoring anyone right now," said Falah, who helped Bosco to more than 400 yards of offense per game last season. "I'm pretty much open to anything. ... I want a place with good academics and I want a chance to play."

Loyola capable of Division 1AA glory

February, 14, 2012
If the CIF-Southern Section Division 1AA bracket unravels as many expect it to, fourth-seeded Loyola will get a shot at top-seeded Mater Dei in a dream semifinal matchup at Anaheim Arena on Feb. 28.

Yes, the boys basketball playoffs have yet to tip off and each team still has to win three games, but we're looking ahead for the sake of projection. Some recent history also adds intrigue here: Last season, defending Division 1A champ Loyola lost to Mater Dei in the Southern California regionals, 72-70, after leading by nine heading into the fourth quarter. The Monarchs went on to Sacramento and returned home with another state crown.

Think that hasn't crossed the minds of Loyola players this season?

The Cubs (21-4), at least on paper, stack up well against Mater Dei (24-2). The Monarchs have a dynamic 3-point shooter in Katin Reinhardt, and Loyola has one too in senior guard Jacob Hazzard. Mater Dei's Xavier Johnson, a Colorado signee, is one of the most versatile forwards in the Southland, but Loyola's Julian Harrell, a Pennsylvania signee, could keep up. Each team has solid role players: Mater Dei with Eli Stalzer and Elijah Brown; Loyola with Justin Childress and sharpshooter Trey Mason.

And don't forget about forward Stanley Johnson of Mater Dei and point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright, maybe the best sophomores in the area.

Loyola, which hosts Trabuco Hills in the first round on Friday, and Mater Dei, which plays Chaparral, appear to be on a collision course. And it's impossible not to consider what may lie ahead.

Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPN Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter.

Lakewood duo transfers to St. John Bosco

February, 13, 2012
Highly regarded sophomore defensive backs Jaleel Wadood and Naijiel Hale have transferred from Lakewood to St. John Bosco, Lakewood coach Vince Lobendahn confirmed through text message Monday.

Hale ranked first in the Moore League last season with seven interceptions, and also had a blocked punt.

Wadood recorded 104 tackles, five interceptions and four sacks in 11 games. He also played on offense for the Lancers.

No. 1 Mater Dei 71, No. 9 LV Lutheran 66

February, 4, 2012
SANTA ANA -- If crowd murmurs were any indication, the showdown between defending state champions exceeded expectations Saturday night. Mater Dei fans hoping for yet another Monarchs blowout were in for a reality check.

The tension built but it subsided quickly.

Top-ranked Mater Dei beat La Verne Lutheran, 71-66, to successfully defend its home court in the 17th annual Nike Extravaganza, but the margin was too close for the red-clad fans. The Monarchs had won their previous eight games by an average of 30 points but trailed the Trojans early in the fourth quarter.

Mater Dei (22-2), the defending CIF Division I state champion, used one of its patented runs to pull away. Senior guard Eli Stalzer sank a jumper, forward Stanley Johnson had a monstrous breakaway dunk and Jordan Strawberry nailed a runner to create some space. The final minute turned into a free-throw shooting contest, but the Monarchs passed that test.

Ninth-ranked La Verne Lutheran (18-6), a two-time defending state titlist, showed the crowd why it has been successful in recent years. Junior guard Eric Cooper had a game-high 21 points and wing Cameron Osorno added 12.

Senior forward Grant Jerrett gave Lutheran a brief two-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but he was never heard from again. Mater Dei denied the post, forcing low-percentage shots from the perimeter. Jerrett, an Arizona signee and arguably the Southland's best prep player, had only seven points and six boards.

"We had to box out this big 6-foot-10 dude over here," said Xavier Johnson, who led Mater Dei with 19 points and 15 rebounds.

Katin Reinhardt had 17 points, and Stanley Johnson pitched in with 10 and 11 boards.

Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPN Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter.

No. 2 Poly 67, No. 15 OLu 45

February, 4, 2012
SANTA ANA -- Long Beach Poly forward Jordan Bell was in the middle of explaining his team's victory. Defense was suffocating. Role players did their part.

Then Orange Lutheran star Gabe York walked by and Bell, in mid-sentence, extended his left arm and patted him on the chest.

"And we shut down Gabe York," he said, smiling.

Frankly, that was the key to second-ranked Long Beach Poly's lopsided 67-45 win against Orange Lutheran in the Nike Extravaganza at Mater Dei. York, the region's premier guard and dynamic scorer, never found his lethal touch. Despite finishing with a team-high 23 points, the Arizona-bound York missed 14 of his 19 shots. He did his damage at the free-throw line and the Jackrabbits (21-1) could live with that.

"Our defense locked it down," said junior wing Roschon Prince, who had a game-high 25 points and nine rebounds. "We put pressure on Gabe."

Moore League leader Long Beach Poly won its 18th straight since losing to Loyola in the Pacific Shores Tournament final on Dec. 3. Last year the Jackrabbits won the CIF-Southern Section Division 1AA title, but were expected to drop off slightly following the loss of key players Ryan Anderson (Boston College) and Alexis Moore (USC) to graduation.

That hasn't been the case.

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Loyola enjoys the moment against OLu

January, 29, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- The smiles were back. So were the laughs and high fives.

Loyola was back to having fun Saturday night, racing past Orange Lutheran, 92-84, in the headliner at the Fairfax State Preview Classic. After an up-and-down week that saw the Cubs slip a full two games back of Alemany in the Mission League, they needed the confidence.

"It's all about having fun," Loyola coach Jamal Adams said. "It's high school basketball. Results are important to us, but they're just high school kids. They have to enjoy the moment."

Loyola (18-3) was coming off a victory Friday night at Chaminade, but still reeling from a 14-point home loss to Alemany earlier in the week. The Cubs trailed by two at halftime Saturday, but there was no panic.

Not with guard Jacob Hazzard shooting the way he was.

"I felt great, the basket looked as big as the ocean," said Hazzard, who poured in a team-high 23 points, including five 3-pointers that had him raising his arms on the way back to the other end of the floor.

Stellar sophomore point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright showed exceptional creativity, especially in finding Hazzard by drawing a second defender. Jackson-Cartwright had 15 points, while Justin Childress and Julian Harrell each had 12 to lead the Cubs to a season-high in points scored.

"We started the week off kind of slow, and we had to come into this game with more energy, more intensity," Jackson-Cartwright said. "It's a big win."

Arizona-bound Gabe York of Orange Lutheran was the leading scorer with 25 points. It was his third game since returning from an appendectomy. Darien Williams had 22 and Payton Banks added 18 for OLu (14-7), which has dropped five of its last seven and now has to face Mater Dei and Long Beach Poly -- arguably the region's top two squads -- back to back.

Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPN Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter.

No. 1 Mater Dei 86, No. 12 St.J.Bosco 71

January, 27, 2012

BELLFLOWER -- St. John Bosco turned off the gym lights for player introductions, Mater Dei proceeded to shoot them out.

A sellout crowd that buzzed before tipoff went silent within minutes. It was supposed to be a marquee Trinity League battle, but it quickly turned into one team’s display of superiority.

[+] EnlargeMater Dei
Blair Angulo/ESPNLosAngeles.comMater Dei showed its superiority in a lopsided win over St. John Bosco.
Mater Dei flexed its muscle with a resounding 86-71 victory against St. John Bosco, taking sole possession of first place. But was the Monarchs' place atop the standings ever really in doubt?

"We wanted to prove that we're the best team in this league," Mater Dei forward Stanley Johnson said. "They were talking junk ... we wanted to prove a point."

Consider the message delivered. Colorado-bound forward Xavier Johnson had a team-high 23 points and 11 rebounds for the defending state champion Monarchs.

"We wanted to beat them huge," Xavier Johnson said.

In anticipation of a capacity crowd, school officials advised fans to arrive at least three hours ahead of the 7 p.m. tipoff. Entrance gates opened at 4 p.m., and spectators trickled in until the seats filled up an hour and a half later. A Bosco official said attendance was capped at 1,310.

The atmosphere was there. Mater Dei (19-2, 6-0 Trinity) fed off of it, opening a 21-point gap after the first quarter. UNLV-bound Katin Reinhardt poured in 17 of his 22 points in the first quarter alone, and the Monarchs sank eight 3-pointers in the first eight minutes.

"This was a hype game," said Reinhardt, who along with Xavier Johnson had been battling the flu all week. "All of Southern California wanted to come watch. We had to come out strong and put the pedal to the metal."

For now it appears as if St. John Bosco (16-5, 5-1), with talented brothers Isaac Hamilton and Daniel Hamilton, will have to wait until next season to leave its mark on the league. The Braves got to within nine midway through the third quarter, but Reinhardt answered with a dagger from the corner.

"We do that and we’re going to beat a lot of teams," Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight said. "Katin is at a different level at times."

Isaac Hamilton, a junior, finished with a game-high 30 points. Daniel Hamilton, a sophomore, had 15. The only suspense left before the final quarter? Who would be the lucky winner of the 50-50 raffle.

The teams meet again in a week, on Feb. 3 in Santa Ana. Mater Dei, like always, figures to turn off the lights for player introductions.

"Our introduction is bigger and better," Stanley Johnson said, smiling.

Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPN Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter.

L.A. South: Prep basketball roundup

January, 25, 2012
St. John Bosco (16-4) eked out a 72-68 victory at JSerra on Wednesday night to improve to 5-0 in Trinity League play, setting up a highly intriguing matchup with Mater Dei, the region's top-ranked squad, on Friday in Bellflower. Isaac Hamilton led the way with a game-high 26 points.

Loyola (16-3) lost at home to Alemany, 95-81, and is now two games back in the Mission League standings. The Cubs had gotten back into the race with an impressive win against Crespi earlier in the week. Loyola got 24 points from Julian Harrell.

In the Western League, Fairfax (14-7) beat Westchester, 53-46. Brendyn Taylor had 17 points. In the Pacific League, Muir (20-1) beat Burbank, 54-52, thanks to Jelani Mitchell's 17 points.

Windward (14-7) bounced back from a demoralizing Alpha League loss to Pacific Hills, defeating Sierra Canyon 68-67.

In the Ocean League, Culver City beat Beverly Hills, 87-81, behind 33 points from Aamahd Walker and 32 from Keilan Horton.

St. John Bosco 80, Orange Lutheran 73

January, 18, 2012
BELLFLOWER -- All eyes were fixed on St. John Bosco guard Isaac Hamilton Wednesday night. Up and down the floor he went, crashing the boards and slashing his way to the basket. The star junior was a sight to see.

Then, late in the game, Hamilton was whistled for his fifth foul. Suddenly, the player everyone came to see turned into a spectator.

St. John Bosco, though, responded the way good teams do. Captain Braiten Madrigal sank a clutch 3-pointer to extend the Braves' lead to six, and they held on for a crucial 80-73 Trinity League victory over visiting Orange Lutheran.

"I don't know what I was thinking," said Hamilton, who scored a game-high 37 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. "The fifth foul was just instincts. I should have held back, but I saw the ball coming and I thought it was an easy steal. Not being with the team in the final minutes hurt, but everyone else finished the game off."

St. John Bosco (14-2), which improved to 4-0 in the Trinity League, is off to a remarkable start under first-year coach Derrick Taylor, who spent the previous 11 years at Woodland Hills Taft.

Hamilton, the nation's 16th-ranked player in the 2013 class, picked up his fifth foul with 1:45 remaining, the Braves clinging to a five-point lead. It dwindled down to three before Madrigal's heroics.

"It was rough, but I knew we'd pull it out," said 6-foot-6 sophomore Daniel Hamilton, Isaac's younger brother who added 23 points and 11 assists. "We're a good team. We practice hard and play hard."

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L.A. South: Boys' basketball Top 10

January, 15, 2012
The south Los Angeles County boys' basketball top 10 power rankings:

1. Long Beach Poly (12-1)
The Jackrabbits showed no rustiness following a three-week layoff, blowing out Lakewood, 74-30, behind 25 points from standout junior Roschon Prince. This week: vs. Rainer Beach (Seattle, Wash.) in King Holiday Hoop Fest at Univ. of Washington, Mon.; at Long Beach Wilson, Wed.; vs. Millikan, Fri.

2. Loyola (14-2)
The Cubs got back on track with three convincing Mission League wins against Chaminade, Harvard-Westlake and Notre Dame. This week: at St. Francis, Sat.

3. La Verne Lutheran (14-4)
Arizona-bound forward Grant Jerrett scored 30 points in an overtime win against Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick at the Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass. This week: at Orange Lutheran in Tony Matson Memorial Classic, Mon.

4. Price (12-5)
Guard Chance Murray led the way with 22 points in a thrilling victory against Serra in Saturday's Cochran Classic at LACES. This week: vs. Palm Springs, Mon.; vs. Leuzinger at Gardena Serra, Sat.

5. Gardena Serra (15-2)
An up and down week for the Cavaliers, who got an important league win against Bishop Montgomery before losing to L.A. Price on a controversial last-second call. This week: vs. Santa Monica at L.A. Price, Mon.; at Bishop Amat, Wed.; vs. La Salle, Fri.; vs. San Diego Hoover, Sat.

6. St. John Bosco (13-2)
The Braves have started 3-0 in the Trinity League and now get a tough test against Orange Lutheran. The Hamilton brothers -- junior Isaac and sophomore Daniel -- have Bosco in great shape. This week: vs. Orange Lutheran, Wed.; at Allstate National Prep Classic in New Orleans, weekend.

7. Bishop Montgomery (14-3)
The Knights could never get over the hump against Serra and lost for the first time in nearly a month. This week: at Cathedral, Wed.

8. Compton (10-7)
Forward Victor Robbins might be the top unsigned senior in the Southland. He proved it Saturday with 25 points and 16 rebounds in a big win against Windward. This week: at Long Beach Jordan, Wed.

9. Windward (13-6)
A win against Alpha League foe Brentwood followed by a blowout loss to Compton made for mixed results last week. This week: Idle.

10. Damien (15-1)
The Spartans have won 11 straight since losing in the title game of the Concord De La Salle tournament. St. Mary's-bound big man Chris Reyes and Co. can gain a stranglehold of the Sierra League. This week: vs. Ventura at Los Osos, Mon.; vs. Chino Hills, Wed.; at Charter Oak, Fri.

Ten more, in alphabetic order: Brentwood (12-4), Dorsey (15-5), Downey (16-4), Leuzinger (12-4), Muir (16-1), Pacific Hills (15-3), Pasadena (12-5), Peninsula (12-5), Santa Monica (11-5), Westchester (10-4)

Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPN Los Angeles. Following him on Twitter.

L.A. South: Basketball roundup

January, 13, 2012
There was a bevvy of notable league basketball games in south Los Angeles County on Friday.

In the Western League, Palisades (9-8) withstood a furious charge by Fairfax and held on for a 64-60 victory. Fairfax (10-6) trailed by 26 early in the second half but pulled to within two in the final seconds before missing the go-ahead 3-pointer. Lions guard Landon Drew scored a game-high 19 points in a losing effort.

After a three-week layoff, Long Beach Poly (12-1) opened Moore League play by routing Lakewood, 74-30. Junior forward Roschon Prince had 25 points, getting to the free-throw line 26 times.

Loyola (13-2) is back in the Mission League race after beating Harvard-Westlake, 64-54, in front of a full house at Cal State Los Angeles.

In the Alpha League, Windward (13-5) beat Brentwood, 80-72, to gain the edge atop the standings. And despite the loss, Brentwood (12-3) proved its legitimacy. Pacific Hills (14-3), the league's other contender, was idle.

In the Ocean League, Santa Monica (11-5) beat Culver City, 67-61, despite 27 points from Centaurs guard Keilan Horton.

St. John Bosco (13-2) improved to 3-0 in Trinity League play with a 78-69 win at Santa Margarita. Top junior prospect Isaac Hamilton had a game-high 30 points. The Braves get the chance to make a statement when they host Orange Lutheran next week.

Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPN Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter.

O.C.: Mater Dei 65, Orange Lutheran 51

January, 12, 2012
The prospect of beating Mater Dei for a second year in a row was daunting enough for Orange Lutheran, which seems to be the Trinity League's best chance of knocking off the nationally ranked power.

But the prospect turned from daunting to dismal given that Gabe York was out of the lineup because of an appendectomy. Short-handed against a team with more depth than any in the Southland, the end result was a 65-51 victory on Wednesday for Mater Dei, which is ranked No. 1 in the ESPNLA top 20.

Orange Lutheran (12-3, 2-1) is ranked No. 3. The Lancers are the top-ranked team in the Southern Section Division 1A ranking.

Although you hate to call it this early, Mater Dei (14-2, 2-0) probably clinched a share of the Trinity League title with the victory.

York, who has committed to Arizona, figures to be back in the lineup when the teams meet in the second round of league play, Feb. 1, at Orange Lutheran. A year ago, OLu won at home against the Monarchs, 59-56, handing them their only county loss since 2005.

Junior Jordan Banks, called upon to pick up the slack of York's absence, scored a game-high 30 points but he was spread too thin. He scored 13 of Lutheran's first 16 points for a 16-15 lead, but Mater Dei seized control with a 10-2 run to close the half. Mater Dei extended the lead by a point through three quarters, and outscored the Lancers in the fourth, 23-17.

Xavier Johnson, who was largely guarded by Banks, scored 27 for Mater Dei and Stanley Johnson 17.

St. John Bosco squeaks by JSerra

January, 4, 2012
St. John Bosco started its Trinity League season with a narrow 74-73 victory over visiting JSerra on Wednesday night behind sophomore Daniel Hamilton's game-high 25 points.

First-year coach Derrick Taylor, formerly at Taft, has the Braves at 10-2 and in position to challenge league favorites Mater Dei and Orange Lutheran. Taylor has impressive wins against Gahr, Bishop Montgomery and Windward under his belt.

The Braves host Dominguez on Friday before jumping back into league play. They get their first shot at Orange Lutheran and Mater Dei on Jan. 18 and Jan. 27, respectively.

Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPN Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter.

L.B. Jordan upsets St. John Bosco

December, 13, 2011
Long Beach Poly and Compton beware: Jordan is a potential sleeper in the Moore League this season.

Rausheed Johnson nailed a buzzer-beating jump shot Monday night to beat previously undefeated and highly regarded St. John Bosco, 76-74, propelling the Panthers (4-3) to perhaps the biggest shocker in the young basketball season.

Each of Jordan's starters scored in double figures, as the Panthers survived the Braves' late comeback bid. If the unexpected result says anything, it's that Moore League-favorites Poly and Compton have company.

Click here for Gazettes.com's video recap, which includes Johnson's game-winner.