It’s been a long week for the Long Beach Poly boys’ basketball team, which is playing six games in seven days this week as it attempts to make up for COVID-19 postponed games. The Jackrabbits had already survived some close calls, including Tuesday’s overtime victory over Lakewood, and on Friday in Compton they escaped again, overcoming a 14-0 Compton run in the fourth quarter to win 60-49.
With the victory the Jackrabbits are now tied atop the Moore League standings with Jordan, the only other undefeated team; Poly hosts the Panthers on Monday night.
The condensed schedule definitely had a big effect on Friday’s game. Poly coach Shelton Diggs took his starters out after the third quarter with the Jackrabbits leading 50-35. Compton went on a 14-0 run to start the fourth as Diggs had to put the starters back in.
“I’m trying to get guys in and to get our guys some rest, we have another game tomorrow and a bunch more next week,” said Diggs. “I didn’t think our bench played bad we just weren’t making shots and they were getting a foul call every time down, that helped them get back in it. But with four games already this week I’m trying to rest my guys and we’re also trying to win.”
Compton got as close as 50-49 before Chris Watson found Marcel Hayes with a nice pass for Poly’s first bucket of the fourth quarter, more than five minutes in. Watson then got a big block on defense, and drew a foul on the next possession, knocking down a pair of free throws. Poly’s next trip saw him feed freshman Jovani Ruff on a nice assist, followed up on the next possession by an acrobatic Watson layup.
Suddenly after giving up a 14-0 run, Poly was in the midst of a 10-0 run of its own to close out the game.
“All of our legs were pretty much gone, we just had to get them out of the way in the fourth quarter and try to rest up for tomorrow,” said Watson. “The back to back to backs are hard but we’re grateful to be playing.”
Compton coach Tony Thomas was pleased with the play of senior Brandon Releford, who had a game-high 23 points, but frustrated his team let the game slip away late.
“We were a little tight, it’s our first game having fans and I think we were a little nervous,” he said. “Brandon played really well, we need his fellow seniors to support him. I’m happy with how we fought back, though.”
After Releford, Compton was led by Malachi Scott’s nine points and Avant Gilmore’s eight.
Watson led Poly with 21 and Ruff had 16, but the Jackrabbits’ defense was also huge in building a 15-point lead after three. Darron “Budda” Henry forced four of the 14 turnovers Poly forced Friday night.
“We don’t have days off to practice or get into specifics so we’re doing everything on the fly but it’s still defense, defense, defense, and I think you see that,” said Diggs.
He also took issue with the way the second half was officiated, as seven of the first eight whistles were on Poly.
“There’s never a game between Poly and Compton where one of us is gonna have one foul in a half,” he said. “We play physical, they play physical, that’s how it goes. So I didn’t get that–but we pushed through and we’re on to the next one.”