Long Beach Poly and St. John Bosco’s boys’ basketball teams likely expected to be playing each other on Saturday evening in the Bosco Gahr Winter Classic. The Jackrabbits and Braves were supposed to be playing in the championship game, however, and after surprising semifinal losses they ended up meeting in the third-place game. The Jackrabbits played a solid game but ended up falling to Bosco, 70-65.
“I’m proud of the way our guys fought back,” said Poly coach Shelton Diggs.
The Jackrabbits had difficulty scoring in the second quarter, when they put up just nine points on three field goals, as Bosco switched into an extended zone. Braves coach Matt Dunn is known as a good zone technician, and the Jackrabbits struggled to get to their spots, falling behind 37-25 at the break.
“With the way we’re playing right now with five guards, it’s hard to break the zone down, and we didn’t do a good enough job moving the ball,” said Diggs.
Coming out of the locker room, Justin Rene and Malik Salahuddin did a great job of getting to the soft spots in the zone and making shots. Poly also did a better job of using its length on defense, forcing six turnovers, two of which turned into easy baskets in a frame that Poly won 24-16.
In the fourth quarter, Rene had five quick points and Poly came within three points. Then Watson was fouled on a put-back attempt, and Bosco’s Josh Adoh slammed the ball down in frustration. That gave Poly four consecutive foul shots for the initial infraction and the technical; the Jackrabbits made them all, putting them up 58-57 with less than five minutes left.
Adoh put up a team-high 22 points and led his team back in the fourth, however, as Poly’s offense stalled with two late turnovers to keep them from retaking the lead.
Bosco’s big man Jonathan Salazar was injured in the second quarter of the game, which hampered the Braves’ offense against the smaller Jackrabbits as well.
After Adoh, Bosco was led by Josh Camper’s 16 points. Poly was led by Rene’s 27 points and Salahuddin’s 16 points; Rene was named all-tournament.
The Jackrabbits only have two games left before getting transfers Ben and Solomon Jones and Jeremiah Atkinson eligible at the end of the CIF-SS mandated sit-out period. Poly (6-3, 1-0) will travel to Lakewood and Compton on Wednesday and Thursday.