Sunday, January 17, 2021
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One week, two teams, four losses

Apparently St. Mary’s of Stockton lost again last night – to Clovis West, in the championship game of the latter team’s tournament. St. Mary’s had played four hours earlier, beating Hanford. That’s two losses in a week for the (formerly) number one-ranked high school team.

Tonight, also for the second time in a week, Cal lost. Theirs was at the hands of Oklahoma, who had been down by 26 at the half and rallied to come back. Ouch! When the ratings come out Monday, I won’t expect to see Cal in the top 10 anymore. Double ouch.

It makes you wonder about the momentum of a loss. Sometimes a team can let that first loss get in their heads, and they start thinking negatively. Obviously I don’t know what’s up in the St. Mary’s or Cal locker rooms, but we’ll see if they can each put their respective losses behind them sooner, or later.

Dorsey 74, Crenshaw 63

It appears that Dorsey basketball is back in the building.

A 21-7 record that left them one game shy of the city championship in 2006-2007 was followed by a dismal 10-15 season last year. But now, the Donns are off to a 3-1 start (maybe more if they’d post their results from a tourney last week on maxpreps.com), including a “take no prisoners” win over Crenshaw last night.

If Stevie Wonder had come to the game, he would have had no problem figuring out what was going on, as the “THUMP!” of a Crenshaw body hitting the floor was heard almost as much as the catcalls from the Dorsey JV team sitting in the stands. I hadn’t seen that many kids on the floor since third period, when I had my PE class perform sit-ups.

The first couple times it happened, a Dorsey player tripped a Crenshaw Cougar, sending her careening toward the ground. But in general, Crenshaw players seemed to have a hard time staying on their feet. They would simply slip, fall to the floor chasing a loose ball, or lose their balance after contact with an athletic Donn player – which was seemingly every player they had.

The result was a convincing 74-63 Dorsey win, which puts them at the top of the Coliseum League with View Park Prep (4-1). I predict those two will fight mightily for the league title this year.

Dorsey began the game strong, despite a turnover-fest on the part of both teams. Crenshaw didn’t score a bucket until the 6:10 mark in the first quarter. Then both teams started with the dueling steals, multiple bad passes and bad shots a piece. This isn’t uncommon at the start of high school games, to have both teams playing sloppily. The score was still 14-4 Dorsey with 2:33 to go.

The second quarter began with four girls from both teams diving for the ball and wrestling for possession; I’m glad no one knocked heads. It was Dorsey up 23-13 for a few minutes, and then Crenshaw went on a little run. They hit a three, then made another bucket on the next possession. They had cut Dorsey’s lead to two, 25-23, before the Donns made their own run, including a full-court pass play. The Cougars were only able to make three more baskets during the period, while the Donns reeled off seven more buckets to end the half up 39-29.

The third quarter was the best for both teams. Crenshaw came out on fire, cutting Dorsey’s lead to 41-37 at the 5:32 mark. Dorsey responded with three straight shots, and the dueling steal-fest began again. As I had felt at the game I was at a few hours before, I thought both teams would have done well to slow down.

The Donns kept their lead by eight until two minutes to go, when the Cougars went on another run. A shot, some free throws, some hustlin, repeat. Dorsey lead 56-52 at the end of the third. Both teams scored almost as much in the third has they had in all the first half.

In the last quarter, Dorsey turned it on and never looked back. Their marquee play came on a full court-length pass for a layup which wowed even the Crenshaw fans I was sitting next to. It was 66-53 at the 4:40 mark. The Cougars got one little bit of last momentum at 2:38, when they’d cut Dorsey’s lead to 70-60. But the Donns hit two more baskets, and the possibility of a comeback went out the window.

I really liked Crenshaw’s never-say-die fighting spirit. They never gave up, and played all the way until the final buzzer. They need to work on their free throw shots, but they have a lot of potential that I hope their coach can bring out of them.

Dorsey players who were impressive were sophomore guard Yolanda Kennard, sophomore guard Kyndal Charleston, and freshman guard/forward Destiny King. Kennard is a hustler, and really moves the ball and makes things happen. Charleston has a sweet outside shot that almost always falls. And King is a good three-shooter.

The Donns have only 10 girls on their roster this year, but I guess that isn’t unusual for them. Last year they had 14, including five seniors, and the year before that -the almost-city championship year – only seven were on the roster. This year’s squad includes only one senior and two juniors. The rest are freshmen (4) and sophomores (3).

If Dorsey needed some fresh blood to jump-start their program, so far it looks like they’re succeeding. I must make sure to catch them again when they play View Park Prep.

Non-play highlight: Dorsey JV players chanting to free throw shooters from their varsity team, “make it, homegirl!”

Taft 48, Washington Prep 46

Ah, it’s back, thank goodness. I hadn’t realized how I’d missed it – the gut-churning excitement of a good high school basketball game. It’s been since last March that I’ve felt the way I did today watching Washington Prep and Taft go at it. That’s a lot of moons ago in basketball time.

It was a good-old fashioned slugfest between two top-rated teams that looked more like a February playoff game than a season-opening debut. In a contest full of bad passes, missed free throws and beautiful plays, visiting Taft hung on for dear life in the second half to pull one out over Washington, 48-46.

The moment of the game that exemplified the grit both teams brought came at the very end of the third quarter. Prep’s Kejuana Gardner and a Taft player collided, throwing Gardner off-balance, and she looked like she was going to lose control of the ball. As the Taft player grabbed her, Gardner spun around and landed on the ground, but she was still dribbling the ball. She kept dribbling it as she stood up, and then broke free from her defender, running towards the basket.

The shot Gardner put up was too late, as the buzzer was already sounding when the ball left her hands. But it didn’t seem to matter to the awestruck crowd; it sure didn’t matter to me. I caught eyes with the man sitting to the right of me with his daughter, and I said “wow!” shaking my head. His eyes were big too and he laughed.

The game began with a quick Taft foul. I guess that should have been our first indication how the thing would be played. That, and the fact that both teams began with a blistering full-court press defense. Taft’s shots weren’t falling and Prep’s rebounds weren’t happening. Then the first steal-mania began: both sides taking turns stealing the ball from one another, whether it was off a bad pass or just grabbing a ball out of another girl’s hands.

Washington kept throwing the ball away on bad passes, and their defense and boxing out were lacking. Taft made two shots in a row and built a small lead, 14-10, towards the end of the first quarter. But Gardner stepped up to make two big buckets right at the end of the period, which took Taft’s lead down 17-16.

In the second quarter, Prep’s Reshanda Gray jumped in with Gardner and made some big plays. She began tearing down the rebounds, and got fouled for two shots. Then Gardner did the same thing. But bad Washington passes continued to result in turnovers, and Taft scored twice in a row. Prep stepped up their defense, and the score seemed like it was 22-17 Taft for the longest time.

Finally, Gardner made good with a fast break and laid it up and in. Taft answered, and the two teams went back and forth with scoring for the last 3:20. Gardner hoisted a 3 just before the buzzer, ending the half 26-25 Taft.

While their teams were warming up for the second half, the referees took aside a team captain from each side and talked with them for a moment. I presume it was to tell them to settle down and stop playing each other so rough. Like that would really happen.

In the second half, just like the first, players continued to dive for balls 3-4 at once; they tried to wrench the ball out of each other’s hands 2-3 people at a time; and they continued to push each other away or down to the ground. Typical game in girl’s basketball.

Prep stepped up its rebounding game in the third quarter and began grabbing them – largely due to Gray. After a series of alternating turnovers, Gardner pulled off a big play underneath the basket. It was 31-30 Taft at the 3:47 mark.

It was especially in the third quarter that the game seemed out of control at times. It was a run and gun game, as neither team would stop long enough to set up a play or run an offense. The athleticism of both squads put pressure on all the players. It seemed like everyone was afraid that if they slowed down long enough, someone would pluck the ball out of their hands or bean them on the head. (And these fears were legitimate, as those things happened regularly….)

The fourth quarter began with a Gray assist to Gardner, again cutting Taft’s lead to 35-34. Then it was Gardner’s assist that lead to the next bucket, and Washington was ahead by a point. Taft poured in a couple shots, then Gardner assisted Gray for a shot. After that, Gardner made a bucket. It was 43-40 Taft for a long time, but a big Prep shot, two Taft turnovers and another Gardner play under the basket tied them up at 44 with about two minutes to go.

Washington missed a wide-open layup, then fouled Taft’s Joy Hubbard. Hubbard missed both free throw shots, sending the loud crowd into hysterics on both sides. Taft did score on their next possession, and the score was 46-44 Taft with 45 seconds left.

No one could score, and with two girls fighting for the ball, possession was given to Taft with 26 seconds to go. Taft inbounded and was fouled, but again, the shooter missed both shots. Gardner then hit a 3, sending the Washington side of the gym into screaming fits. 47-46, Prep.

Taft inbounded and was fouled by Gardner. The Taft player made one free throw; Taft 48, Prep 46. Then Gardner was fouled, and Prep fans started dancing in the stands. But with 2.7 seconds on the clock, Gardner missed both shots. Washington tried an inbounds play after a timeout, but a Taft player got her hands on it and time ran out.

The free throws were the story of the game for both sides, because each team really needs to hit the charity stripe in practice. The turnover numbers were way too high, as well. Prep Coach Ricky Blackmon lamented both statistics after the game. But the bright spots outweighed those issues for me.

For one thing, Washington looked light years away from the way they played Monday at the Redondo Union tournament. Today they were hungry and determined. They look like a team who wants to take the league title badly, not to mention fighting for the city championship.

Taft also has some work to do, but they’ve got ferocious defense and some fine outside shooters. If Chatsworth is ahead of these two teams, as some have predicted, I’d like to see them.

Gardner, who had an off-year last year, was great Monday but was especially impressive today. Her tenacity was palpable; it oozed from her. And she was everywhere doing everything: rebounding, spinning, shooting and dishing assists. I really enjoy watching her play.

Gray, who is only a sophomore, has a lot of skill. She and Gardner should make a good tandem combo.

I talked with one of the Prep player’s mothers after the game. Felicia was waiting for her daughter, who had twisted an ankle in the first half. Felicia is apparently the team mom, and gave each player a hug as they emerged from the locker room, and told her to keep her head up. Then she carried her daughter off, piggy-back style.

I’m not worried about Washington Prep anymore this year. They’ll do fine.

I’m not worried about myself, either. I stayed really calm throughout the game, though I rolled to the side twice, late in the fourth quarter. It made the people next to me laugh, but I had to do it to keep myself from screaming.

I can take these types of games so much better than I used to.

After that I went to another game, but I’ll write about that one tomorrow. I’ve been up for almost 19 hours and need to call it a day.

It’s just Candace now

From my friend Larry in an email today. Ya gotta love it:

I guess Candace has fully arrived on the sporting scene. When a person is referred only by one of their names, such as Jordan everyone knows that is Michael Jordan. So now that ESPN has referred to Candace Parker as just Candace I guess that means everyone is suppose to know who that is. I was watching the show ‘Pardon my Interruption’ with Kornheiser and his sidekick. They were at the point in the show where they have a list of topics and/or personalities to discuss. The list is shown on the right side of the screen. The day I was watching, the name Candace appeared on the list. Sure enough it was CP they were discussing. The sidekick was suppose to give Candace some tips on marriage.

What’s up with Rutgers? (And transfers who can play)

They barely pulled it out against Prarie View A&M tonight, 58-56. They had a nine-point lead in the first half and had to hang on for dear life to win in the second. They are really struggling so far this season. I wonder why.

Box score:

http://sports.espn.go.com/ncw/boxscore?gameId=283460164

On one message board, someone posted that a rumor is flying around that Nikki Speed is about to join Jasmine Dixon in transferring. Do people just look at the box score, see that Speed was the only Scarlet Knight not to play tonight, and make stuff up?

Speaking of transfers. I was reading on another message board that former USC forward Morghan Medlock, who mysteriously transferred to Baylor last spring, is playing for her new team rather than sitting out the season, as most transfers do. Check the stats – she’s played in all nine games so far this season:

http://baylorbears.cstv.com/sports/w-baskbl/mtt/bay-w-baskbl-mtt.html

How is this possible? Basketball guru Clay Kallam said there is a “hardship rule” in the NCAA. That opens up a whole other can of worms. USC never officially acknowledged Medlock’s departure from the program, and Baylor never said anything on their end except, “she’s here.” What kind of hardship could she have incurred at USC?

Finally, I wonder when Jasmine Dixon will announce the school she is transferring to.

Interesting list

ESPN RISE FAB 50 Girls Basketball Rankings (Dec. 10)

Rank, Team, Location, Record, Previous Rank

1 St. Michael Academy (New York City) 4-0 2
2 Sacred Heart Cathedral (San Francisco) 3-0 3
3 Poly (Long Beach, Calif.) 2-0 4
4 Westlake (Atlanta) 3-0 6
5 Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.) 0-0 7
6 Ben Davis (Indianapolis) 5-0 8
7 Mount Notre Dame (Cincinnati) 4-0 9
8 Cardinal O’Hara (Springfield, Pa.) 1-0 10
9 H.D. Woodson (Washington, D.C.) 3-0 11
10 South Bend Washington (South Bend, Ind.) 6-0 12
11 University (Newark, N.J.) 0-0 13
12 Heritage Christian (Indianapolis) 5-0 28
13 St. Mary’s (Stockton, Calif.) 3-1 1
14 Bolingbrook (Bolingbrook, Ill.) 2-1 14
15 Murry Burgtraum (New York City) 2-0 16
16 Bishop McGuinnes (Kernersville, N.C.) 3-0 17
17 Potter’s House Christian (Jacksonville, Fla.) 9-0 19
18 Regis Jesuit (Aurora, Colo.) 3-1 5
19 Whitney Young (Chicago) 7-1 18
20 Detroit Community (Detroit) 1-0 20
21 Archbishop Carrol (Radnor, Pa.) 0-0 21
22 Wesleyan (Norcross, Ga.) 4-1 25
23 Kentwood (Covington, Wash.) 3-0 NR
24 Highlands Ranch (Colo.) 3-0 26
25 Chaminade-Julienne (Dayton, Ohio) 2-0 27
26 Lexington Christian (Lexington, Ky.) 2-0 30
27 Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.) 3-0 30
28 Millington (Tenn.) 3-0 28
29 Detroit Country Day (Beverly Hills, Mich.) 1-0 34
30 Lower Richland (Hopkins, S.C.) 2-0 35
31 Wichita Heights (Wichita, Kan.) 1-0 36
32 Jefferson (Portland, Ore.) 2-0 37
33 Bob Jones (Madison, Ala.) 9-1 22
34 Trenton Central (Trenton, N.J.) 0-0 38
35 Union (Tulsa, Okla.) 0-0 39
36 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) 1-0 NR
37 Westbury Christian (Houston) 23-0 NR
38 Germantown Academy (Fort Washington, Pa.) 2-0 41
39 Dulles (Sugar Land, Texas) 13-1 23
40 Nimitz (Houston) 14-1 50
41 Eleanor Roosvelt (Greenbelt, Md.) 0-0 43
42 Oak Hill (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) 6-2 24
43 Minneapolis South (Minneapolis) 3-1 44
44 Murrah (Jackson, Miss.) 8-0 45
45 Cajon (San Bernadino, Calif.) 4-0 NR
46 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) 1-0 46
47 Wilson Central (Lebanon, Tenn.) 5-1 47
48 Mandan (Mandan, N.D.) 0-0 50
49 Mansfield Timberview (Arlington, Texas) 11-1 NR
50 St. John’s the Baptist (West Islip, N.Y.) 1-0 NR

It’s hard to get a ranking around here

I’m disgusted right now.

The high school basketball season has been underway for two weeks now, and maxpreps.com doesn’t have any girl’s team rankings for California. Nor does the LA Times. The only site that does have something is calpreps.com, and theirs are all segregated. They have statewide rankings and league-by-league rankings, but no SoCal and NorCal predictions, which is important because those two divisions face off for the state championship.

Someone on socalpreps.com posted a supposed list two weeks ago that they said they found on calpreps, but I can’t locate it. The list put Washington first, Chatsworth second, Taft third, and then Fairfax and View Park Prep. The list went all the way up to 25, and I have no idea where they got that. This is only the state with the most basketball teams in the freakin country; you’d think someone would be paying attention.

So I guess I’ll have to do this myself.

calpreps lists the top teams in the state as:

1. St. Mary’s of Stockton
2. Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco
3. Long Beach Poly
4. Brea Olinda of Brea
5. Cajon of San Bernardino
6. Mater Dei of Santa Ana
7. Summitt of Fontana
8. Clovis West of Fresno
9. Wilcox of Santa Clara
10. Foothill of Santa Ana

So 60 percent of the top 10 teams are from SoCal……and this is why people have apparently been calling for years for a different way to break down the state playoffs, as NorCal is generally weaker than SoCal. But anyway.

St. Mary’s lost last weekend to Kentwood High School of Kent, WA. So they’re not infallible.

I saw Long Beach Poly play in October, and they don’t look like all that the way they used to. They did lose quite a few players last year.

Brea lost the championship game of its own tournament last week for the second year in a row.

Perhaps these teams should all be taken down some notches for their recent losses? The other teams could well have had losses by this point too, but I haven’t looked them up yet (unfortunately I already have a fulltime job).

Last year’s Los Angeles city champion runner-up Chatsworth is ranked 14 on this list.

Los Angeles City Section

There are 14 leagues in the city section, but only 10 are legitimate contenders. The other four are fledgling new leagues thanks to the glut of charter schools that have opened up in LAUSD the last several years.

According to calpreps.com, these are the rankings for the 10 big-time leagues:

Coliseum

View Park Prep
Crenshaw
Dorsey
Locke
Fremont
Jefferson
Manual Arts

I tried to go see View Park Prep today, but they’d cancelled the game. I’m going to see Crenshaw and Dorsey Friday, and I’m looking forward to that. Crenshaw was good last year, but Dorsey wasn’t.

Locke used to be decent, but that was a while ago. The other teams are crap.

East Valley

Grant
Poly
North Hollywood
Van Nuys
Verdugo Hills
Arleta
Canoga Park

This is one of the two leagues I know least about, so I won’t comment on it. I saw North Hollywood play a couple years ago, and I’ve seen Verdugo Hills. But those were light years ago in kid years.

Valley Mission

Monroe
San Fernando
Reseda
Sylmar
Kennedy
Panorama

Sylmar and Reseda used to be the business two years ago. I guess the balance of power has shifted.

Eastern

Garfield
Bell
Southeast
Roosevelt
South Gate
Huntington Park
Jordan

This is one list where calpreps really missed the boat. The buzz since the summertime has been around Southeast, which begun the season beating defending city champs Narbonne at a tourney. I went to watch them two weeks ago, and they’ve got the hustle and the ball movement down. They also make their shots. Some have predicted they’ll take the league title, and I’m jumping on that bandwagon. Their coach is a hard-working, knowledgeable person.

Garfield, Bell and Roosevelt will fight it out for the next three positions, as they used to take turns dominating the league. I predict Huntington Park last because they always suck, and because Jordan has begun the season much better than usual.

Marine

Narbonne
Washington
Carson
King-Drew
Banning
San Pedro
Gardena

This is another list where they screwed it up. This entire league lost so many seniors from several teams last year to graduation. The top two, Narbonne and Washington, lost eight seniors a piece. The league won’t be the same for a while.

I’ve seen Narbonne play, and they look bad this year. So far they’re 0-4 on the season. I saw Washington play Monday, and they have some serious work to do as well. One of Carson’s best players transferred to Narbonne, so that team is hurting a bit this year too. King-Drew has had flashes of brilliance in the past, but nothing worthy of the top of the league. Banning, San Pedro and Gardena are all pretty bad.

Northern

Wilson
Marshall
Eagle Rock
Lincoln
Franklin
Belmont

Eagle Rock must have lost people, because they used to be the top dogs. I’m surprised to see Marshall that high. I need to go check them out.

West Valley

Chatsworth
Taft
Granada Hills
El Camino Real
Birmingham
Cleveland

This is one scary league. Chatsworth is no joke, and Taft won the city championship in 2007. Granada Hills and El Camino Real have also been ranked the last few years. I have no idea what the top four are bringing, but wouldn’t it be fun if they all slugged it out for the top spot?

Southern

Bernstein
Hollywood
Elizabeth Learning Center
West Adams
Bravo
Los Angeles
Contreras
Santee

This is the league of schools that are new, having been built in the last 3-5 years or so. Bernstein took many of Hollywood’s students, which might explain why they’re at the top. This is going to be an interesting league to watch as it takes shape, because it’s too young to have traditions or regular league champs yet.

Valley

Sherman Oaks
Northridge Academy
Fulton Prep
Vaughn
Discovery Prep
East Valley

Like, ohmigawd, I never get out to the Valley so like, I have no idea what this league is about. It’s a little far to get there from South Central, so I’ll probably settle for just reading about it unless one of those teams has the next Candace Parker on it.

Western

Fairfax
LACES
Palisades
University
Westchester
Venice
Hamilton

Another gigantic league. Fairfax is in the top five mix in the city every year; LACES is a really tough team of girls who play physical, brutal ball; Palisades has a long reputation for producing good teams. This is one league where calpreps got it exactly right. They will finish in this order unless every single Fairfax girl gets injured.

Tennessee and Tennessee-related items

The UT Sentinel reports today that Briana Bass will start for the Vols tomorrow against Middle Tennessee State. She’ll replace Cait McMahan, who’s having “issues with her surgically-repaired knee.” (http://www.govolsxtra.com/news/2008/dec/10/bass-to-start-for-ailing-mcmahan/)

I had a feeling this would happen. I wish McMahan a speedy recovery – hopefully it’s just a flare-up. And I hope Bass brings the tremendous energy and good dishes/ball movement that we’ve seen from her so far.

This will be the Vols’ first game in a week.

In ex-Vol news, Shannon Bobbitt is at last playing for a Turkish team, as had been long-rumored. She is on the Botasspor Adana team with two other Americans, a German and a bunch of Turks. Here’s the page:

http://www.eurobasket.com/team.asp?Cntry=TUR&Team=7719&Women=1

Sparks season ticket holders today received a copy of the Sparks monthly newsletter via email, which included a short interview with Bobbitt. Since it isn’t posted on their site, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to copy it, even with attribution. But I will mention the two things she said that cracked me up: 1. On the topic of her recent birthday, she commented “I’m getting up there!” I hope to god she’s being sarcastic. Few things are more annoying than a young person saying they feel old. 2. She was asked what her first experience overseas was like and her first sentence was, “I try to look at everything as a learning experience.” Read between the lines if you will, because Turkey ain’t New York City.

I’m proud of Bobbitt, as she’s so far been averaging 16 points, 4 assists and 3 steals per game. I recall fellow ex-Vol Sidney Spencer was also averaging 16 points per game for her overseas team as well. It’s good to have both kinds of training – playing in a difficult league like the WNBA, with the best players in the world, and a league more akin to the American college experience. You train for field events like the shotput the same way: use the 20-pound shot for strength training and the 8-pound shot for speed.

But the best news to me? Bobbitt’s been shooting 67 percent.

Booyah.

Jasmine Dixon story continued

The same New Jersey paper that reported her transfer last night now says she “appears to be headed to UCLA.”

http://www.nj.com/rutgerswomen/index.ssf/2008/12/you_make_the_call_are_you_conc.html

What is up with this newspaper? Why not tell us why you think so?

But if it’s true, WOO! Good for us in Los Angeles.

Upsets and mysterious transfers

So first thing this morning, I saw this – Kentwood High School of Kent, WA upset number one-ranked St. Mary’s of Stockton:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/highschoolsports/2008477937_prephoops07.html

I didn’t see that one coming, at least not this early.

Then I just got home from my high school scouting adventure to hear that Rutgers pulled out a horrible game against Georgia, and guess who was sitting in the stands and not playing? Freshmen Jasmine Dixon of Long Beach Poly! I didn’t see this one coming either:

http://www.nj.com/rutgerswomen/index.ssf/2008/12/rutgers_freshman_jasmine_dixon.html

Obviously this is fresh, spankin’ new information. But why didn’t this newspaper give a reason other than Stringer’s comment that “it’s not a good fit”? And where is she transferring to? More information better come out in coming days. Those of us who just watched Dixon play for four years deserve an explanation.