There weren’t a lot of highlights in Long Beach Poly’s Moore League matchup with Compton on Thursday night in the Ron Palmer Pavilion. The Jackrabbits controlled the game from tipoff to the final buzzer with stifling defense, forcing 14 turnovers and keeping Compton out of rhythm all game. The Jackrabbits gave up just seven points in the first quarter and eight in the fourth as they won 43-34.
“Our defense, that’s our whole attitude since the beginning of the year,” said Poly coach Shelton Diggs. “With how many games we’ve played the last two weeks we haven’t had much time to practice and work on things. But we focused on it so much preseason that we can hang our hat on it now.”
The only Compton player to crack double digits was Malachi Scott, who was held scoreless in the first but then went to work on the block, putting up 14 points.
For Poly, Christian Watson led the way with 13 points, while Marcel Hayes had 11. Hayes has carved out an important role on Poly’s offense as an X-factor guy, someone capable of going off when Watson or freshman Jovani Ruff are slow to get rolling.
“It’s just about being in the right spots at the right time for me and taking advantage of open looks my teammates are getting me,” said Hayes.
Poly point guard Darron “Budda” Henry only had four points, but as always he set the tone with his defensive intensity, with three steals. Henry said that while Poly looks forward to having time to practice, watch film, and put together detailed scouts on their opponents, right now it’s all about attitude on defense.
“It’s just playing hard, it’s making sure we know that every possession matters, and that your teammates are counting on you,” said Henry.
It’s also fallen on Henry to help guide the Jackrabbits into an offensive identity, one that can mold the talents of Watson and Ruff.
“I think you can see everybody’s more comfortable, we have faith in everybody’s scoring ability,” said Henry. “One night Jo might have 30, one night Chris might have 30, one night Marcel might have 15 and other guys have 10 or 15. So it’s just who’s producing and playing off that as the game goes on.”
Compton coach Tony Thomas was frustrated with how the season is going for his young team, which is currently in fourth place in the Moore League.
“It’s like the NBA with all these quick turnarounds,” he said. “I like playing but this team needs practice, and we’re not ever going to catch up on the schedule so we can’t practice. So we’re doing the best we can with the amount of time we have but it’s frustrating.”
The Jackrabbits visit Millikan Friday and need three wins in four games against the Rams, Jordan, Cabrillo, and Lakewood next week to clinch another Moore League title.