Long Beach Poly is going to have plenty of chances to reveal its identity over the next few weeks. A tumultuous season impacted by injuries and COVID shutdowns have left the defending Moore League champions with a condensed schedule and a roster still working towards cohesion with all its top players available once again.
In Wednesday night’s 64-47 victory over Wilson, the Jackrabbits showed they have multiple players who can take a game over and carry the scoring load when needed. Playing their third game in as many days, Poly looked sharp from the outset and held off a scrappy performance from Wilson to remain unbeaten in league play.
“We want to be one of those teams that has multiple guys who can score,” said Poly head coach Shelton Diggs. “Because we’re harder to guard like that. It was good that we were able to get multiple guys scoring tonight.”
The Jackrabbits got a game-high 24 points from stud freshman Jovani Ruff, who dropped 18 in a prodigious third quarter to help put the game out of reach. Gabe Cummings scored all 13 of his points in the opening quarter, while Marcel Hayes added 11 and Christian Watson had nine.
Poly raced out of the gate with a 24-8 lead after the opening quarter, led by Cummings’ scoring outburst. But once the second quarter hit, Wilson put together a 9-0 run to cut into Poly’s lead, eventually pulling within six points in the frame.
“That was kind of my fault,” said Diggs after the game. “I subbed in the whole new five and they were cold on the bench, so I’ll take the blame for that one. But we had a really good start to the game and the starters did a really good job.”
Wilson’s Sean Oliver had seven of his 11 first-half points in that second quarter to help lead the Bruins’ comeback. The junior finished with a team-high 19 points to go with a couple nice assists.
Once the second half hit, Ruff completely took the game over. He scored Poly’s first 18 points after the break, outscoring Wilson by himself to help Poly turn a 31-23 halftime lead into a 52-39 edge entering the final quarter. The Bruins cut Poly’s lead to six multiple times, but couldn’t find a way to slow down Ruff as he helped restore a double-digit lead for the Jackrabbits.
“Our coaches in the locker room were just telling us to be patient and keep passing, not going one on one,” said Ruff of what got him going after halftime. “We just kept moving the ball and eventually it came back to me and I got to go to work.”
The ninth grader put on a display of offensive proficiency in that third quarter: a floater in the lane, a slam dunk off a half-court set, back-to-back three’s from different spots on the floor, and he even knocked down all four of his free throw attempts.
Wilson did their best to hang in the game, but didn’t have an answer for Ruff and couldn’t score enough outside of their second quarter outburst.
“The competitive side, it was okay for me,” said Wilson head coach James Boykin. “I expected a little bit more out of us tonight, but it wasn’t bad. We started off really slow and then played a really good second quarter. And in the third quarter, we came out flat in areas. We hang our hat on our defense but it just kind of fell apart in that third quarter. Then you mix in some turnovers and when you’re playing a good team you can’t do that or else the game gets away from you a little bit.”
The Jackrabbits will get one entire day off before getting back on the court for games both Friday and Saturday. First up is a Moore League clash against co-defending champions Compton at Compton Centennial. Wilson’s next game is Friday at home against Lakewood.