The Millikan boys’ basketball team have started their last two postseason games very slowly.
A huge halftime deficit was too much to overcome in the CIF Southern Section Division 3A semifinals last week, but the Rams learned their lesson and ran away from Bravo with a 79-49 first round win in the CIF State Division IV playoffs on Tuesday at Millikan.
It is the first CIF State win ever for the Millikan boys’ basketball program. It’s only the third State appearance for the Rams, and their second time hosting a State game.
“We came out slow in both games but tonight we matched their energy and played aggressive,” said Millikan senior Kamaury Washington, who finished the night with a triple-double of 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
“I just went with the flow,” he added. “My teammates were having a hot game so I fed them the ball, they were cutting to get open and scoring.”
Millikan sophomore Donovan Desha was often on the receiving end when Washington created and the sophomore scored a game-high 29 points.
“We felt like we should’ve won the (CIF-SS Championship) and we all just wanted to come out here, play hard and get a win,” Desha said. “We were just trying to stay aggressive… Our energy was way better and we were more focused in practice.”
Bravo came to Long Beach as the CIF City Section Division 3 champions and looked good in the first quarter while taking an early lead. Junior Anthony Quiroa led the visitors with 14 points.
Millikan coach Curtis Boyer called an early timeout and loudly delivered a succinct message to his team.
“Wake up,” he said.
It worked. After they went to the second quarter tied 15-15, the Rams went on a 10-0 run that gave them the confidence to get to the basket continuously.
“(We) really picked it up after we got on them after the first quarter, especially defensively,” Boyer said. “We saw on film that if we stayed in front of them and challenged every shot they’re not a good team to score. Everything we planned on offensively it was to attack and they lived up to that.”
It was the drive and kick assists from Washington that keyed the Rams comeback and the run in the second quarter.
“He tried to do a little bit of everything,” Boyer said of Washington. “He wasn’t trying to force anything on offense. He saw that (Desha) was going off so he was trying to get him set up and it worked to perfection.”
Millikan led 35-22 at halftime and was never really threatened by Bravo in the second half as Desha continued to be a mismatch for the visitors.
“He’s standing right behind (Washington) and he’s filling those shoes next year so I told him, ‘You can do that,’” Boyer said. “So tonight didn’t surprise me at all. He did everything I expected him to do because he knew the game plan and knows how to attack very well.”
Boyer, Washington and Desha all said that the Millikan student section and big crowds during the playoffs have helped them immensely.
“I feel like we have the best fans in the Moore League, and probably in CIF State, so we like to come out here and put on a show and represent them,” Desha said.
“They give us a lot of energy,” Boyer said. “It feeds us, especially after the COVID year where we didn’t have anyone (in the gym) and now we’ve got full stands and it gets everyone, even the bench, hyped up. We really need it.”
Millikan will host Sunny Hills in the second round on Thursday.