Long Beach Poly (15-5, 9-0) showed its maturity on Monday night at Jordan High, getting out to a fast start and cruising to an 81-65 victory over the host Panthers (10-12, 3-5). The Jackrabbits opened the game on a 14-1 run, displaying impressive ball movement against Jordan’s pressure defense to take another step toward an unbeaten league season and a 13th consecutive Moore League crown.
“My top seven or eight guys played really well,” said Poly head coach Shelton Diggs. “We’re playing well, we’re passing the ball, we’re shooting the ball well, our defense is good. We’re playing good basketball right as we’re getting into playoff time.”
The passing and shooting were certainly on display early on as the Jackrabbits assisted on nine of their first 10 made baskets. Poly ended up with 17 assists on the night, led by four from senior Christian Watson, who also poured in a game-high 27 points. Freshman phenom Jovani Ruff made his first four three-pointers on his way to a 20-point performance.
“That’s just the culture from Shell and (the coaching staff), that’s the culture they give us at practice is to move the ball and share it,” said Watson. “We know we get open shots when we move it like that. So that’s just kind of what we try to do, especially on teams that press like that.”
Watson took the game over in the second quarter with 14 points, helping Poly stretch its lead to as much as 23 in the frame.
A late Jordan surge, led by Dennis Redmond (team-high 15 points) helped the Panthers claw back to within 49-32 at halftime, but they had no answer for Poly’s starting unit.
Ruff and Watson went back to work in the third period, scoring 14 of Poly’s first 17 second-half points to grow the lead to 31 points (74-43) early in the fourth quarter.
But credit to Jordan for not letting the game slip away uncontested. The Panthers rattled off a 20-2 run to invert that 31-point lead down to just 13. Freshman Jaymari Redmond had seven of his 10 points during that stretch to help spark the comeback.
With just a tick over two minutes left on the game clock, Diggs made sure the victory was in hand by bringing his starting five back on the floor. Watson promptly hit Gabe Cummings (11 points) for a wide open three-pointer to seal it.
Jordan will look to get back on the winning path on Tuesday with a trip to Millikan.
Meanwhile, Poly is at Cabrillo on Wednesday before a huge showdown Thursday night at Lakewood. The Jackrabbits needed overtime to beat the Lancers in round one, and that remains Lakewood’s only league loss. Assuming there are no upsets, Thursday’s game at Lakewood will have the Moore League title on the line.
“We hate sharing it,” said Diggs of wanting an outright championship. “It’s our title, so we’ve got to get it back and have it where it’s just ours. That’s our motivation this year was to get the title back and have it be ours.”