Basketball Jordan Long Beach Poly

Boys’ Basketball: Long Beach Poly Picks Up Big Moore League Win At Jordan

The562’s coverage of Long Beach Poly is sponsored by Bryson Financial

The562’s coverage of Jordan Athletics is sponsored by former LBUSD superintendent Chris Steinhauser.

It’s been a long year since Jordan swept Long Beach Poly in the 2022-23 Moore League boys’ basketball season, winning both times they played the Jackrabbits. Poly didn’t bother pretending that they haven’t been thinking about those losses, which helped to snap Poly’s 13-year Moore League title streak. On Monday night in North Long Beach, the Jackrabbits got a chance to make those thoughts a reality as they won an impressive decision against the defending league champion Panthers, 73-54.

“They took something from us last year, most of these guys were either on the floor or on the bench for those games last year,” said Poly coach Shelton Diggs. “I’m not saying we won the league by winning this game, but it was important for us to get a win against them. It’s important, especially for this group–these guys really worked hard in the offseason to get better.”

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Diggs celebrated his birthday on the day of the Jordan win, and said that last year the Panthers had beaten Poly on his birthday. He credited his team for the hard work they’ve put in. All successful basketball teams have to manage a balance of playing within a system, and competing hard. Poly has at stretches over the last two seasons leaned too hard in one direction or another–either playing within a system but doing so tentatively, or competing hard but making a ton of mistakes. They’ve found the right balance on the eight-game win streak they’re currently riding.

“It’s balanced, they’re competing at the level we want to compete at,” said Diggs. “That’s what the preseason is about, those tough games–seeing how hard you have to compete, how hard you need to play defensively.”

The Jackrabbits trailed 9-8  midway through the first quarter when they began to settle in. With Jordan face-guarding Poly star Jovani Ruff and doubling him inside the arc, Poly’s two other key scorers Austin Unegbu and Giovanni Ofoegbu had a lot of room to operate, and they took advantage. Those two keyed a 20-4 run for Poly that saw them take a 28-13 lead midway through the second.

The Jackrabbits led 38-23 at halftime, with Unegbu and Ofoegbu both in double digits. Unegbu has always been a capable scorer, but the junior wreaked havoc on the glass with 14 rebounds, nine of which were on offense.

“Last week in the St. Francis Tournament, I was going back and watching film with my dad and I felt like I played on the perimeter too much,” he said. “I’m big enough, if I crash the offensive glass that’s another six or eight points. So I’ve been making that more of an emphasis.”

Unegbu and Ofoegbu had 23 and 16 points, respectively, thanks to their willingness to be aggressive while the defense focused on Ruff.

“That’s the beauty of playing with Jo,” said Unegbu. “You almost have to send two people at him at all times, that’s how deadly he is. And it opens up everything for all of us. I love playing with a guy like that.”

Poly opened the second half on a 13-0 run and led 51-23, before an 11-0 run from Jordan helped close it to a 21-point deficit going into the fourth quarter. A free throw-packed final frame saw Jordan whittle the lead down a little, but Ruff got loose for 16 points and Poly cruised to a 73-54 win.

“It was almost like the opposite of last year,” said Unegbu. “We came in as the underdog and they were the champs, so we had nothing to lose. We loved the atmosphere here with all the fans, it’s a great atmosphere if you love playing basketball. We elevated our game and came out with a win.”

Jonas Oware has also shown big improvement for Poly this year, finishing with 10 points and 12 rebounds. The sophomore is starting to gain confidence and aggressiveness both rebounding and scoring.

“We’re all in the gym, we’re all lifting, we’re just keeping up the work,” said Diggs. “Guys can get down when they don’t perform but we’re about teaching them and getting them better. We all want to win. Jonas has been willing to put the work in, and he’s continued to get better every week, on offense and defense.”

It was a frustrating game for Jordan, whose press lacked the bite that it carried much of last season in part because the Panthers had long stretches where they struggled to score. As has been the case all year, Jaymari Redmond was a big bright spot for Jordan, leading the Panthers with 17 points. Samajay Jackson had 11 points for the Panthers.

Poly (12-7, 3-0) will travel to Cabrillo Wednesday and host Millikan Friday. Poly is now in a first-place tie with Lakewood as the only undefeated teams in the league.

Jordan (9-7, 3-1) is at Wilson Wednesday and at Lakewood Friday in another big Moore League showdown.

VIDEO: Long Beach Poly vs. Jordan, Boys’ Basketball
PHOTOS: Long Beach Poly vs Jordan Boys’ 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.