It was a battle of the two best teams in the Moore League, a pair of 5-0 boys’ basketball squads, as well as a meeting of the league’s two top scorers in Long Beach Poly’s Peyton Watson and Millikan’s Rob Diaz. In the end, it was Poly’s complete team effort and late-game execution that provided the separation in a 60-53 victory over the Rams.
At the end of the first round of league play, Poly is now alone in first place at 6-0 in league while Millikan slips to second at 5-1. The game was played before a near sold-out crowd in Poly’s gym.
“People only come out when they think we’re going to lose,” said Poly coach Shelton Diggs with a laugh.
The game was low-scoring to start, with Millikan leading 9-7 after the first quarter and Poly up 22-19 at halftime. By the end of the game, both teams had broken into a sprint, each scoring 23 points in the fourth quarter.
“We were feeling them out, just keeping the pace low,” said Diggs. “Next game might be high scoring.”
“I think both teams missed a lot of shots early,” said Millikan coach Nate Berger. “It was a big game, good crowd, it took everyone a little to settle in.”
Diaz handled the bulk of the scoring for Millikan, with 31 of the team’s 53 points, including all o their points in the second quarter, and their final eight points in the game. For Poly, Watson finished with 20 points, but it was the way the rest of the team stepped up that sealed the win for the Jackrabbits.
Chris Watson, Peyton’s younger brother, had 10 points and five assists, while big man Solomon Jones had another strong Moore League effort with 15 points. Chris Watson, Jones, and Gabe Cummings helped close the game out for Poly on a 13-5 run after falling behind by a point with 2:27 left in the game.
“It’s just important that we don’t get too high or too low,” said Peyton Watson. “When we’re up, don’t get too high and when we’re down, don’t get low. That’s our motto for the game.”
Watson, who has attracted major recruiting attention, got a few words of advice from Poly alum and football star Willie McGinest after the game.
“This is a special place to go to school,” he said. “The alumni support and the people you’re in contact with is a whole different world.”
For Millikan and Berger, the game was an example of how far his program has come in the last 12 months, getting to play in a first-place battle to close out the first half of league.
“I’m just really proud of our kids, they’ve all worked really hard, some of them have been through a coaching change, and they deserve to play in this game,” he said.
The second round of league play will begin next week on Wednesday for the Moore League.