Basketball can be a very complicated sport, or it can be a very simple sport. On Wednesday evening in the quarterfinals of the Bosco Winter Classic, Long Beach Poly made it very simple: the Jackrabbits had the best player on the floor, and they won. Junior Peyton Watson put on a show with 30 points, 11 rebounds, five blocks, three steals, and two assists. Watson’s 13 points in the fourth quarter boosted the Jackrabbits to a 68-55 victory over Crespi and into a much-anticipated semifinal game against St. Anthony Friday night at 8:30 p.m.
“Peyton can do it all, he can do it all,” said Poly coach Shelton Diggs. “He hits big threes, he plays defense.”
Crespi came out in a 3-2 zone, which the Jackrabbits are likely to face all year as teams try to slow down Watson and stop Poly’s speedy guards from penetrating. The Jackrabbits shot over it just fine to start the game, as sophomore Gabe Cummings (15 points) knocked down a pair of three’s, as did Wendell Caldwell (11 points) later in the game. The Jackrabbits led 20-9 after the first quarter and would open that lead up to 37-19 in the second quarter as Watson began calmly shooting over top of the zone, knocking in four three’s in the quarter. Crespi and super frosh Michael Price closed the lead to 42-31 at halftime.
The Jackrabbits only scored six points in the third quarter, as Watson was held scoreless and Poly looked tentative against the zone. Diggs was frustrated that the first eight calls of the second half went against his team.
“You get 10 fouls to zero you’re going to have a bad quarter,” he said. “They’re getting to the free throw line and we’re not getting anything.”
Crespi scored six of their 13 points in the quarter at the free throw line to cut the lead to four points going to the fourth.
At that point, Watson simplified things and asserted himself, getting to the free throw line, then knocking in two three’s after Crespi had pulled within one possession. He scored the first nine points of the quarter for Poly to help pour water on the Crespi surge, and the Jackrabbits went on to win it.
Watson is still new to the leadership role at Poly, but it was easy to forget that Wednesday as he calmly stepped up and started knocking down shots in the fourth.
“It’s just the confidence my coaches and teammates and family have in me,” he said. “My teammates did a good job of finding me in good spots.”
Poly (4-2) will now get a look at the other Division 1 team in town, St. Anthony. The two teams haven’t played in several years, and there’s already a lot of buzz about the game—although not from Poly’s coaches and players.
“That’s just another non league game for us,” said Diggs.
“There’s been a lot of talk about it, we’re not going to worry about any of that,” said Watson. “We’re just going to come out and play.”