Poly High School has the confidence befitting a longtime basketball power as it begins the Southern Section 5-A playoffs at home Friday night against St. Paul.
Poly, which won the Moore League title and has a 17-7 overall record, is seeded third in a 16-team field behind Mater Dei (25-0) and Serra (20-4).
"Our kids believe they can play with anybody," said Poly Coach Chris Kinder.
With good reason. The Jackrabbits lost seven games by a total of 16 points. And they took Mater Dei into overtime before losing, 63-59.
If Poly and Mater Dei win their first three playoff games, they will have a rematch in the finals at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. Poly would then have an extra incentive: trying to stop a 57-game Monarch winning streak.
Poly is a team that has won by running, shooting and playing pressure defense.
No Individual Stars
There are no stars on the team, and Kinder prefers it that way.
"You go to a lot of schools, and the offense is centered around one player," Kinder said. "We spread it around. I don't push any one individual. My philosophy is a team thing."
The Jackrabbits' leaders are guard Osei Appiah and forward Chris Roscoe, two seniors who average about 12 points a game. They have already won scholarships--Appiah to Santa Clara and Roscoe to the University of Hawaii--but neither is dreaming about college glory.
"They are secure with their futures, but they are still very competitive," Kinder said.
Michael Herring (11 points a game), who quarterbacked the Poly football team, is the point guard, and he has an effective backup in Joshua Robinson.
If Poly has a weakness, it is up front. Demetrius Camper and Roy Wade, who both average eight points a game, have been inconsistent.
'Don't Have a Big Man'
"The difference in our team this year is that we don't have a big man to go to," Kinder said.
Last year the Jackrabbits' big man was Andre Purry, now a freshman at Cal State Long Beach.
Kinder is in his second season as head coach at Poly. Last year he had to survive the ordeal of succeeding Ron Palmer, who won 271 games in 11 seasons.
"It's my program now," Kinder said. "I don't feel any pressure."
St. Paul, which is in the playoffs for the first time since 1967, will likely feel some pressure Friday night. The Swordsmen (12-8) finished in a second-place tie in the Angelus League behind Mater Dei. St. Paul lost to Mater Dei, 76-52.
"We're happy to be here," said St. Paul Coach Mike Dinneen. "We have a good team."
The Swordsmen are led by Jeff Willis, who averages 19 points a game, and John Scott, who averages 17 points and 8 assists.
Other Friday night playoff games involving teams in the Long Beach/Southeast area:
St. Anthony (14-4) and Millikan (13-10), two Long Beach schools that haven't faced each other in four years, will play at Millikan in a 5-A game.
The Saints, who defeated Poly, 61-57, early in the season, have a huge size advantage at center with 6-8, 320-pound Jaime Cardriche, who averages 15 points and 6 rebounds.
But Millikan's center, Shawn Williams, who is only 6 feet 2, has outscored Cardriche by a point a game and out-rebounded him by two a game.
The winner's dubious reward will probably be a game with Mater Dei.
Wilson (14-9) plays at Crespi (19-4) in another 5-A game. The Bruins, who finished in a second-place tie behind Poly in the Moore League, will hope that Don Brotz (16.3 points a game) and Darren Rector (15.1) can lead them to an upset.
In the 4-A division, San Gabriel Valley League champion Dominguez takes a 19-5 record into a home game against Hawthorne (12-11).
League runner-up Lynwood (17-6) plays at Rolling Hills (19-5) and Warren (14-9), which finished third in the San Gabriel Valley League, plays at Muir (24-2).
In 3-A, Schurr (21-3), the second-place team in the Foothill League, plays at Nogales (18-7).
Whitmont League champion La Serna (14-7), which has the area's top scorer in Robert Stone (24-point average), hosts Los Alamitos (17-7).
Bell Gardens (15-7), which finished second in the Whitmont, plays at Burroughs-Ridgecrest (18-4) and Montebello (14-7), the Whitmont's third-place team, is at Troy (16-8).
And in a battle of .500 teams, Centennial (10-10) hosts Buena Park (11-11).
In 2-A, Suburban League champion Mayfair (15-7) will host the winner of a wild-card game that was played Wednesday night between Keppel and Edgewood. The Monsoons have two big scorers in Bob Parton (20.4) and Mark Beack (18.5).
South Pasadena at Norwalk
Norwalk (11-8), the Suburban runner-up, will be at home against South Pasadena (18-6) while the league's third-place team, Artesia (8-12), must travel to face No. 1-ranked San Bernardino (23-2).
Whittier Christian, undefeated in 23 games and the top-ranked 1-A team, will open at home against the winner of a wild-card game that was played Wednesday night between Pasadena Poly and Beaumont.
Valley Christian (20-4), runner-up to Whittier Christian in the Olympic League, hosts either St. Bonaventure or Flintridge Prep.
In the small-schools division, Whitney (17-5) will host the winner of Wednesday night's St. Vincent's-South Bay Lutheran game; Pioneer Baptist (16-2) will play at home against Bel Air Prep (14-8), and Baptist Christian (9-11) is at Silver Valley (18-3).