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Basketball Millikan

CIF State Basketball: Millikan Falls to Valley Torah

A historic run by the Millikan boys’ basketball team came to an end late Saturday night in the Howard Lyon Gymnasium, as the Rams weren’t able to overcome a scrappy Valley Torah team. Millikan led by as many as 10 points early in the game, but the Wolfpack’s shooting and hustle won the day as they pulled away late, 72-59.

Rams coach Curtis Boyer said his team had to do some soul-searching after a rough start to the season, and was able to go on a run that took them deeper into the playoffs than any Rams team in history.

“We just kept trying to get them to believe in themselves, because we believed in them,” he said. “And we knew we could do something if they listened. And it finally happened in January and that’s how we got on this big run. I’m super proud of these boys. I feel bad for the seniors to go out like this, but like we told them in the locker room, there’s nothing to hang your head about. No other Millikan team in history has done what we’ve done, they can take that for the rest of their life.”

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The Rams were led by 20 points from senior Kamaury Washington, 13 from Donovan Desha, and 11 from Isaiah Wade.

Valley Torah was led by 24 points from Yonatan Dan and 20 from Noam Mayouhas. The Wolfpack made fans of a lot of old heads in the crowd, who appreciated the team’s scrappy attitude and hard-nosed style. Valley Torah head coach Lior Schwartzberg didn’t want any of the credit for his team’s spirit, which has them the first 16th-seeded team in CIF State history to make the Southern California Regional Finals.

“I told the kids I have no postgame speech because they just play for each other like I’ve never seen,” he said. “I’m flabbergasted. They don’t get rattled. There’s nothing I can say about it because it’s just beyond words what’s happening.”

The Rams got out to a good start and led 17-11 after the first quarter, but the Valley Torah 3-point shooting came on in the second quarter as they poured in 24 points, taking a 35-34 lead to the locker room. 

In the third quarter, Washington and Desha got the Rams out to a 43-38 lead, but Boyer drew a technical foul while up 43-39 after an exchange with one of the game’s officials that paused the Millikan momentum.

“I didn’t even say anything, I was just looking at him,” said Boyer. “He gave me one but I was okay with it. Once in a while I’m okay taking a tech if it fires up my kids and gets my point across. You can’t have a team like that that plays energetic and reaches for everything, and we’re almost in the double bonus and they have three or four fouls.”

Valley Torah made both free throws and kickstarted a 15-7 run to end the third quarter, giving them a 53-50 lead going to the fourth.

There, the Millikan magic ran out. The Rams settled for jumpers too often and couldn’t get the shots to fall. Millikan didn’t hit their first field goal in the fourth quarter until five minutes in, at which point the Wolfpack had taken a commanding lead. They started the fourth quarter on a 15-5 run to take control of the game.

“The difference in the game was the energy levels,” said Boyer. “They really played with a lot of energy down the stretch.”

Even with the Wolfpack up by 10 points in the fourth and time running down, Yonatan Dan was diving onto loose balls and throwing his body around making plays. Their team made 11 3-pointers in the game.

“Every game we’re smaller or shorter or slower,” said Schwartzberg. “But maybe that’s to our advantage.”

The game was played late Saturday night (845pm tipoff) as Valley Torah is an Orthodox Jewish school and their team observes the Sabbath. Both programs brought big student sections and the late-night game had a terrific atmosphere on both sides of the gym as a result.

Valley Torah will travel to Scripps Ranch Tuesday for the CIF State SoCal Regional Final, trying to become the first 16-seed to make it to the state championship game.

VIDEO: Millikan vs. Valley Torah, CIF State 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.