SAN DIEGO — The length of a high school basketball court is approximately 94 feet. Hardly a good stretch of the legs.
But to a guard facing the Crenshaw press the distance must look like an airplane runway. Throw in five flying bodies, and reaching the 10-second line is about as easy as crossing a mine field blindfolded.
"They just keep coming at you; you can never rest," said guard Andy Byrne, whose Poway team played well for a half before being dismantled by Crenshaw, 79-61, in a Southern California regional game at Mira Mesa High Wednesday night. "It's hard to explain. You get past one man and then someone else is there. And someone else, and someone else. They're everywhere."
Center John Colborne, whose 16 first-half points kept Poway (24-2) in striking distance at 40-35, agreed that Crenshaw's press disrupted the Titans' offense to the point of all-out panic.
"They're just relentless," said Colborne, who will play for SMU next season. "It's like they're gnats. You can't shake 'em."
Poway turned the ball over 28 times, including eight in the third quarter when Crenshaw outscored the Titans, 20-10. Colborne scored Poway's first basket of the third quarter but never scored again.
"Coach (Willie) West told us we had to stop the big man," said Crenshaw forward Stanley Brundy, who scored 20 points. "We just wore him down. They were good, but we knew that sooner or later the press would break them.'
Another factor was the play of Steve Thompson, who led both teams with 27 points and appeared to spend most of the evening suspended above the rim, delighting the crowd of 2,500 with an array of dunks.
The victory moves City champion Crenshaw (22-0) into the Southern Regional final against Fresno Edison Saturday night at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. The winner advances to the State final March 16 at Oakland.
Poway Coach Neville Saner felt his players controlled the tempo in the first half but eventually succumbed to the press.
"We had to bring John (Colborne) up to help out, and that took us out of what we wanted to do on offense," he said. "But our kids played hard. That (pointing in the direction of Crenshaw) is a quality basketball team. They know how to play. Give them credit. They never let up."