Moments after his team defeated Long Beach Poly on the road for the first time since 2008, Compton boys’ basketball coach Tony Thomas was already stressed about his team’s prospects of hanging onto a co-Moore League championship with the Jackrabbits.
“The key for us is we can’t slip up and lose a dumb one,” said Thomas, whose team has dropped games to lower-tier teams in recent years.
Compton came out looking championship-ready in a hard-fought road game at third-place Lakewood Friday night, winning 61-56.
“I’m real proud of them,” said Thomas after the game. “We said treat it like a playoff game, if you lose you go home; here if you lose, you lose your title, same thing. I challenged them and they stepped up.”
Lakewood didn’t make it easy on them, trailing by just four after the first quarter and tying it at the half on a buzzer-beater from Coralii Mila, who made it 31-31 at intermission. Compton stayed within a score until midway through the fourth quarter, when an 8-0 run capped by a huge 3-pointer from Chris Willis made it 56-53 Lancers with just 2:33 left in the game.
But Compton got big buckets from Brandon Releford (11 points) and Malachi Scott (14 points) to finish the game on an 8-0 run, holding Lakewood from scoring again.
The star for Compton once again was senior Pat Johnson, who led the way with 27 points and who had an answer to every Lakewood run.
“When it’s time to go get a bucket, I gotta get a bucket,” he said. “I can’t let them try to come back.”
Thomas said that Johnson’s leadership has been a huge key for the Tarbabes this season as they seek their first Moore League championship in five years, and just the second since the graduation of NBA star DeMar DeRozan.
“Pat is carrying us,” said Thomas. “I don’t like to have one guy carry us, we haven’t had that since DeMar, but he is carrying us right now. We got into foul trouble for the first time this year with just seven guys on the team, but he carried us through it.”
Jalen Shores led Lakewood with 14 points.
Compton will travel to Millikan on Monday as Moore League play continues while Lakewood will have the bye and then host Jordan on Wednesday.
Pat Johnson 27
Malachi Scott 14
Brandon Releford 11
Jalen Shores 14
Brendan Pickerson 11
Chris Willis 10