With three minutes left in Tuesday night’s CIF State Division 1 SoCal quarterfinal game, Long Beach Poly got a layup from Malik Salahuddin to go up 61-56 on top-seeded St. John Bosco. Longtime Long Beach sportswriter and college basketball Hall of Famer Frank Burlison leaned over at the media table and said, “They need two more baskets. Maybe one.”
The Jackrabbits got the looks they wanted but not the baskets, and the Braves closed on an 8-0 run to snag the win, 64-61.
“We got the looks we wanted, we just didn’t get the buckets,” said Poly coach Shelton Diggs after the game. “We had Justin Rene in the corner, Jesse Galloway had a three on the wing, Darryl Polk had two threes and a layup where he got fouled. I’ll live and die with those looks and with our guys—we just didn’t get it to go.”
Meanwhile Bosco crept up possession by possession, as Jonathan Salazar eventually put them up 62-61 on a pair of made free throws with 0:45 left. Even after that Poly had two looks by Polk, one of which drew contact but not a whistle. Josh Camper made two free-throws for the Braves to put Bosco up 64-61 and Poly had one last look, but Polk’s 3-pointer fell short.
Poly trailed the whole first half despite a nice start to the game from Giordan Williams, who finished with 19 points. The Jackrabbits took control during a breakout third that saw them outscore Bosco 19-14, with Polk scoring 11 of his 16 points including a runner at the buzzer to go up 51-49 headed to the fourth.
Poly started the quarter no a 10-5 run but didn’t score again after a leaner by Salahuddin gave them the five point lead.
“We’re used to being the smaller, faster team and all of a sudden tonight we were the bigger, stronger team,” said Bosco coach Matt Dunn. “I’ve told our team all year our best skill is offensive rebounding.”
Bosco had 14 offensive boards in the game and got eight first-half points on second-chance opportunities.
Poly was led by Williams, Polk, 11 points from Justin Rene, seven from Salahuddin, and six from Galloway. Polk and Galloway graduate but the Jackrabbits return three strong starters in Rene, Salahuddin, and Williams.
Bosco was led by Salazar’s 17 points and 12 rebounds and 14 points from Chris James. Guard Josh Adoh injured his ankle late in the game and Dunn said they’d have to wait until Sunday to see how severe it was.
The Jackrabbits (23-9) finish the season as CIF-SS Division 1 semifinalists and CIF State Division 1 SoCal quarterfinalists. Poly also won a record ninth consecutive Moore League championship. Bosco (24-7) will host Rancho Christian on Tuesday in the semifinals; the Braves are the last remaining Trinity League team in the state playoffs.