After road wins in hostile environments in the CIF Southern Section Division 2AA quarterfinals and semifinals, the Long Beach Poly boys’ basketball team finally found a gym they didn’t feel at home in. The Jackrabbits were outshot by host Village Christian in a high-scoring affair and fell 78-69.
Both teams had been advancing through the playoffs on the strength of their defense, making the score a surprise. Village Christian held Los Altos to just 37 points in the semifinals and Poly hadn’t allowed a team to score more than 50 points all playoffs. The difference in the game was shot-making early, as the Crusaders knocked down five 3-pointers in the first half, putting Poly in a 43-25 hole at the break.
“They made shots,” said Poly coach Shelton Diggs. “That’s the beauty of playing at home with your crowd, it got them pumped up. We weren’t organized enough offensively in the first half, we turned the ball over and got down early. We’re not a team that can get down 18 points and just score like that.”
The Jackrabbits fought back valiantly in the second half, fighting to a 13-13 standstill in the third quarter and then going on an absolute tear in the fourth quarter, scoring 31 points and getting four converted and-one baskets from seniors Christian Watson and Marcel Hayes.
The Jackrabbits had three separate 7-0 runs in the second half, the third of which cut the Crusaders lead to 66-60 with a little moe than two minutes to go, part of a 22-11 start to the fourth quarter for Poly.
But when the lead was cut to six on back-to-back free throws from Hayes, Poly went into a press and there was a blown assignment on the back end, letting a Village Christian player get a quick layup to put the score back to eight, and snapping Poly’s momentum.
The Crusaders would score the game’s next eight points on free throws as Poly couldn’t cash one in on the other end. Daniel Hardy and Watson made 3’s late for Poly.
The Jackrabbits were led by 20 points from Christian Watson, 18 from Hayes, and 13 from freshman Jovani Ruff. Village Christian was led by 19 points from Powel Mousaian and 16 from Deshaun Warren.
Both teams have qualified for next week’s CIF State playoffs, which will begin on Tuesday. The CIF State playoff brackets will be released Sunday evening and we’ll post them live on the site.