The Compton boys’ basketball team beat Long Beach Poly last night in the Ron Palmer Pavilion, marking their first road victory over the Jackrabbits since 2008, when NBA All-Star DeMar DeRozan was on the roster. Compton led wire to wire and was the more intense, engaged and motivated team for the entire game, which they won 65-57.
The win moves Compton into a tie with Poly with one loss apiece–if the two teams win out, they’ll end the season as co-Moore League champions. Compton senior Pat Johnson said he was shocked at Poly’s effort at times.
“If they don’t want it, I’m gonna go get it, because I want it,” he said. “They came out sloppy. I’m gonna hustle, my whole team hustles.”
Compton coach Tony Thomas noted that Poly was without standout Peyton Watson, who is playing in the Iverson Classic in front of NBA executives from all 30 teams.
“They’re a different team without him, but this is still important for us,” he said. “We felt like we could have beat them the first time we played when he was there, so our guys really wanted this. Feels good to win here–it’s a hard place to win.”
Compton led 15-11 after the first quarter and only lost one quarter all game. Johnson and Isaiah Daniels combined for 42 points in an impressive effort from the two guards. Malachi Scott punished Poly on the offensive board and had 12 rebounds to go with his 17 points.
“We just wanted to put on for our city,” said Johnson.
Compton led 33-21 at halftime and led by 14 late in the third, when a 9-0 Poly run made it a five-point game just before the end of the quarter. Johnson poured water on the comeback with a one-handed running 3-pointer at the buzzer, which made it 48-40.
The Jackrabbits cut the lead to two and three points in the fourth but each time they did Johnson and Daniels answered on the next possession. Jalen Pitre (12 points) and Chris Watson (17 points) scored Poly’s first 14 points in the fourth quarter and had it on the verge of being a one-possession game late. But Johnson was shooting free throws with 1:50 left, up by six, and despite the fact that Poly had four players around the key while Compton’s team was in the backcourt, a missed free throw bounced on the ground and was picked up by Johnson, who took it from all four Jackrabbits. He was fouled, made a free throw to make it 61-57, and Poly didn’t score again after that.
“That was a microcosm of the game for us,” said Poly coach Shelton Diggs. “We quit. We have to find a way to break through and get this season back.”
It’s a harsh loss and a time for a gut-check and some soul-searching for the Jackrabbits, who were 6-0 in the first round of Moore League and outscored opponents 485-227. They’re ranked No. 2 in CIF-SS Division 2AA and have legitimate championship aspirations, but are also in danger of an early exit from any division with effort like Wednesday’s.