The562’s coverage of Long Beach Wilson Athletics is sponsored by Joel Bitonio, Class of 2009.
The562’s coverage of Jordan Athletics is sponsored by John Ross, Class of 2013.
There’s a version of this year’s Jordan team that could very well win a Moore League championship for the first time since 2009. There’s also a version that could come up short while facing an impressive amount of parity across the league.
Both of those versions were on display Monday night, but fortunately for the home crowd in J-Town, it was the title-contending Panthers who got the upper hand in a 66-61 comeback win over Wilson.
The win keeps Jordan (9-9, 4-0) unbeaten in Moore League action while Wilson is now 12-8 overall with a 2-2 league mark–still very much in contention at this early stage of the season. In fact, the Bruins looked in control after the first half on Monday, taking a 36-28 lead into the locker room.
But halftime was when Jordan head coach Chris Francis got his team in check, and made sure he saw some J-Town Basketball in the second half.
“I said, ‘Whoever those imposters were in my uniforms in the first half, get out of them, and I want my real basketball team to come back out here,” recalled Francis of his halftime talk. “Frankie Chambers was special tonight. I thought he had an almost flawless second half. The Redmond boys were awesome, Kane Young played a good game, Kris Floyd came off the bench and gave some good energy. At the end of the day it was a collective team effort, I thought all the boys played well.”
Chambers was a key weapon for Jordan all night, scoring a team-high 20 points with 13 of those coming in the first half. J-Town struggled in their halfcourt offense facing Wilson’s 2-3 zone, but were able to use their defense to speed the game up in the third quarter, leading to a better tempo, better rhythm, and better shots.
After Wilson scored the first bucket of the third quarter to take a 10-point lead, Jordan rattled off nine straight to pull within one. Eventually, senior Dennis Redmond would score the bucket that put the Panthers in front, 43-42, and they would never trail again. J-Town won the third quarter by a margin of 21-10, and grew the lead to as much as 10 points (62-52) in the fourth quarter on a breakaway dunk from Chambers.
“It was just about speeding the game up,” Chambers said after the win. “Our effort in the first half was much lower than it was in the second half. When we play Jordan Basketball the right way–the Coach Francis way–that's what happens.”
Dennis Redmond added 13 points for Jordan, scoring eight in the third quarter. Daveyon Chisom chipped in 11, as did Jaymari Redmond who drilled a clutch pair of back-to-back threes after Wilson pulled back to within a point in the fourth quarter.
It was a disappointing finish for the Bruins, but there’s plenty of reason for optimism given the talent in their locker room. Senior Keon Young dropped a game-high 21 points with 15 of those coming after halftime. Meanwhile, fellow senior Sean Oliver scored 13 of his 17 in the first half.
Both these teams have a pair of home games coming up Wednesday and Friday, with Wilson hosting Cabrillo and Compton while Jordan will be hosting Lakewood and Millikan. Those matchups will conclude the first round of league play and give a clearer picture of what appears to be a crowded title race.
But for now, no one in the league has been able to get past J-Town, and that’s got the Panthers facing some expectations now that the calendar has turned to 2023.
“I feel like the work these boys have put in is starting to get noticed,” said Francis of his team. “We’re undefeated in first place, so we expect to get everybody's best shot, but we think we're capable of handling it. It's about the work we put in, and these boys really work hard … This is Year 22 for me as a coach, and these kids play harder than any team I've probably ever coached. But we have to just play basketball the J-Town way and I think we'll be okay.”