Basketball Long Beach Poly

CIF State Basketball: Long Beach Poly Falls to Bakersfield Christian

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

The Long Beach Poly boys’ basketball team ended up on the wrong end of someone else’s story on Tuesday night in the first round of the CIF State Division II basketball playoffs. Hosting an underdog Bakersfield Christian team, the Jackrabbits couldn’t overcome the scrappy visitors, falling 51-49 in overtime.

After the game Bakersfield Christian’s coach was emotional–not just about the win.

“My mom’s from down here and she passed away, the last time I was down in Long Beach was three months ago to scatter her ashes,” said coach Garrett Brown. “A lot of emotion for me, and my players felt it and willed us to a win. We’ve fought through a lot of adversity, to come down here to a hostile crowd against a really good team with great players, great coaches and great history and all that, it just means a lot.”

The Eagles advance to face La Costa Canyon on Thursday while the season ends for the Jackrabbits (24-10) with a Moore League title, a CIF-SS Division 2A runner-up plaque, and the short stay in the state playoffs.

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The Jackrabbits jumped out to a 12-2 lead after four minutes as they pounded the ball inside to Jonas Oware and moved the ball fluidly, then scored just 37 points in the final 32 minutes of the game as their movement became stagnant on offense, and they failed to connect from deep, going just 1/17 as a team from 3-point range.

BC sat in a zone and forced Poly to shoot, and the Jackrabbits got good looks but didn’t knock them down–the same story as in the CIF-SS Final on Saturday.

“We’ve been zoned the last four games because we’ve been struggling to shoot,” said Poly coach Shelton Diggs. “They’re going to make us keep shooting and we’re not stepping up and making shots.”

The Jackrabbits struggled to stop Bentley Waller (22 points) and senior point guard Gabriel Gutierrez (25 points), who combined for a whopping 47 of the Eagles’ 51 points, with forward Taiwo Daramola putting up two buckets in the second quarter to account for the entire rest of the team’s scoring. Gutierrez hit a game-tying 3-pointer with just three seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime.

For Poly the offensive woes were plentiful. Jovani Ruff scored 22 points but didn’t shoot his usual efficient number, continuing his shooting slump from Saturday, and missed a critical free throw late. The team’s other top scorers–Giovanni Ofoegbu, Austin Unegbu, and Nana Ofoegbu–combined to make just four field goals in the game. Sophomore post player Jonas Oware did have one of his best games of the year with 12 points, 13 rebounds, and three blocks.

The Jackrabbits scored five points in the second quarter, nine points in the third, and only one basket in the overtime period.

“They fought back this year, we got our respect back, but these young guys got to turn the corner and take the next step,” said DIggs. “Everyone can get better. The guys playing, the guys on the bench, me, we all have to get better. We got a lot of guys coming back, and we got a chance to be really good next year–but a lot of other people do too, so we have to keep getting better.”

VIDEO: Long Beach Poly vs. Bakersfield Christian, CIF State Basketball
PHOTOS: Long Beach Poly vs Bakersfield Christian, 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.