A frustrating season for the Long Beach Poly boys’ basketball team came to an end Tuesday evening in the first round of the CIF State Southern California Regional Division 2A playoffs. The Jackrabbits were once again plagued by uneven effort as well as flashes of brilliance in a narrow defeat, 67-65, to Narbonne.
“It’s very disappointing,” said Poly coach Shelton Diggs. “There’s things we do to get the lead and then once we get it, we’re not doing those things anymore.”
Poly trailed 38-28 at halftime, but pulled ahead with a brilliant third quarter that saw the Jackrabbits outscore the Gauchos 18-6, forcing six turnovers and smothering Narbonne’s offense. Poly ended up with a 50-46 lead early in the fourth quarter after baskets from Anthony Robinson and Jalen Pitre, who led the way with 17 and 18 points, respectively. An and-one from Robinson put the Jackrabbits up 60-53 with four minutes remaining in the game, after having trailed for most of the contest.
But a 14-3 run for Narbonne featured inconsistent defense from Poly, and several bad offensive possessions. Poly got one final basket from Pitre but then failed to score over the final 90 seconds, with Christian Watson’s potential game-winning 3-pointer missing as time expired. Watson had 14 points in the game.
While the Jackrabbits won their Moore League record 13th consecutive league title this year, players, coaches, and parents left the gym frustrated on Tuesday night. Poly opened the season with Open Division expectations, with McDonald’s All-American Peyton Watson headlining a talented group. But Watson played seven games before shutting it down to focus on training for the USA Basketball team, and the Jackrabbits floundered, with inconsistent effort in several key games, including a loss to Compton that gave up a share of the league title. Poly also led in the fourth quarter against Los Altos in the CIF-SS Division 2AA semifinals before falling on the road.