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Basketball Lakewood Long Beach Poly

Boys’ Basketball: Long Beach Poly Beats Lakewood, Claims Undefeated League Title

Long Beach Poly’s boys’ basketball team was tired of sharing. The Jackrabbits came into Thursday night’s Moore League championship showdown at Lakewood having already clinched a portion of their 13th consecutive league title. But after splitting it with Compton last year and Millikan the year before that, the Jackrabbits wanted to make a statement and they wanted to keep the title all to themselves.

Poly did just that by overcoming a strong second-half effort from Lakewood, 49-44. Both teams look prepped and ready for the start of the playoffs next week, and both will enter the postseason ranked in the top ten of their CIF-SS Division.

“It’s good for us to get that dominance back, going 12-0 the way we used to,” said Poly coach Shelton Diggs. “I hate losing league games, we didn’t want to share the title. It was good to finish off the way we wanted to, especially for this group. They’ve gone through the most for three years and they wanted that undefeated championship.”


The game was played in front of a near-capacity crowd that brought a lot of energy and excitement. Poly led throughout the game until Lakewood used a run to tie it early in the fourth quarter. Poly was able to close it out thanks to a strong effort from senior Christian Watson (21 points) and freshman Jovani Ruff (12 points, 10 in the fourth).

“We haven’t had this in I don’t know how long to completely shut everyone out and go 12-0,” said Watson. “It was really important. We were winning, but we didn’t want any tie. We wanted it for ourselves.”

The game opened up with both teams playing great defense. The Jackrabbits were cutting off Lakewood’s drive-attack offense, and held the Lancers to just one field goal in the first quarter and just three in the second. The Lancers were able to get to the line and convert, however, and trailed just 22-15 at half. Meanwhile Lakewood did a good job on Ruff, who didn’t score in the first half.

Watson had 12 points at halftime and Mason Pacheco had eight at halftime for Lakewood. In the third quarter, Poly opened its lead up to 28-18, but the Lancers battled back and after a buzzer-beater to close the quarter, trailed just 33-32 headed to the fourth. A big triple from Aman Haynes tied the game at 35-35, then after a basket from Ryder Maddox, Lakewood tied it again at 37 with a basket by Devin Butler.

But Ruff and Watson took over after that, as Poly went on a 9-0 run to take control of the game. Lakewood stuck in it though, and with their crowd behind them went on a comeback that felt like the start of the playoffs. Chris Willis hit four straight clutch free throws, then Macarhy Morris hit a free throw to make it a four-point game. Poly was unable to score and turned it over on a shot clock violation–after a basket from Elijah Nelson, Lakewood trailed by just two with 43 seconds left. Poly missed its next shot but Darron “Budda” Henry got an offensive board and was fouled with 20 seconds left. Henry made one of two and Lakewood got it back with 19 seconds left, down 47-44.

The Lancers went early and Willis was just long on a tying 3-point attempt, with Ruff getting the rebound, and making two free throws to end the game.

“I think this is a great game for both of us, a playoff environment, a hostile environment for us,” said Diggs. “That’s what we’re going to need to do in the playoffs and I loved to see my team stay composed and make plays at the end of the game.”

Ruff acknowledged that his slow start was due in part to nerves, but said his teammates helped settle him down for the big 12-point second half that he had.

“This is my first big game like this, I wasn’t feeling confident but my teammates let me know I needed to turn it up,” said Ruff. “It’s helpful for me to get used to that before the playoffs.”

Poly was led by Watson (21 points) and Ruff (12) while Lakewood was led by Pacheco’s 15 points. Poly is done for the regular season while Lakewood will finish against Jordan and Compton tomorrow and Saturday.

Playoff brackets come out Tuesday next week.

VIDEO: Long Beach Poly vs. Lakewood, Boys’ Basketball

PHOTOS: Long Beach Poly vs Lakewood Basketball

Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.