A dramatic comeback from a 14-point deficit gave Edison High School a 54-53 win over Long Beach Poly Friday night in a CIF Southern Section 5-A playoff game at Estancia High.
Guard Chris Cole's two free throws with 17 seconds left will go down in school history, for they completed the rally that sent the Chargers into the semifinals for the first time since the school opened in 1969.
Edison will face powerful Serra, an 86-70 winner against Pius X, in one of Wednesday's final four matchups.
Long Beach Poly and Edison have played to virtual deadlocks in both major sports all year. First, their football teams played to a strange 14-14 tie for the title of the Big Five Conference.
Then, when they met for the first time in basketball earlier this season, Edison emerged with a 40-38 win on two free throws by Dave Margulies with seven seconds left.
"That was one of our worst games," said Jackrabbit Coach Chris Kinder.
The frustrated Long Beach Poly boosters were not referring to an informal dress code when they posted a massive banner Friday saying, "No Ties This Time!"
With that philosophy in mind, the Jackrabbits dominated the first half, and brought back memories of their 1984 state championship season. Kinder implied Edison had never seen the real Long Beach Poly, and it looked like he was right.
Edison Coach Jon Borchert said part of his team's formula for defensive success would be to deter Long Beach Poly's guards from driving into the key and shooting 12-footers.
The way the Jackrabbits were shooting in the first half--13 of 19 for 68%--they never needed to get anywhere near that close. They fired almost flawlessly from up to 25 feet, with guard Michael Herring scoring 10 points.
"I sure looked smart in the first half, didn't I?" Borchert said afterward.
The most disheartening moment of the game for Edison may have been when the Jackrabbits' answer to Spud Webb, 5-foot 8-inch guard Joshua Robinson, lofted a perfect alley-oop to forward Osei Appiah for a dunk. It all took place high above the grasp of the shorter Chargers.
Long Beach Poly had its biggest lead of the game with six minutes left in the third quarter, when a long-distance jumper by Herring, who scored 17 overall, made it 39-25 in favor of the Jackrabbits. But the Chargers, who had shot a respectable 50% (11 of 22) in the first half, were just biding their time.
"We knew they couldn't shoot like that forever," Cole said.
Indeed, the Jackrabbits' lost their momentum and their offense started to falter.
And Edison got back into the game.
The Chargers (17-9) outscored the Jackrabbits, 11-6, in the third quarter as Long Beach Poly (18-8)made just two of six shots. The Jackrabbits' lead was whittled to 41-34 going into the final quarter.
But Long Beach Poly had reason to believe the Chargers would not be able to withstand its pressure defense. Things did not look promising when Charger point guard Dave Margulies fouled out early in the third quarter.
But sixth man Mike Henderson re-entered the game and turned in his best performance of the season. He handled the ball well against the press and eventually led all Charger scorers with a total of 14 points. .
The Chargers trailed Long Beach Poly by a basket through the fourth quarter until a pair of Henderson free throws gave them their first lead at 50-49 with 2:20 left. Herring's jumper put Long Beach Poly back ahead, but Henderson made a difficult short bank shot for a 52-51 Edison lead with 1:45 left.
Herring retaliated with another basket with 36 seconds to go and Henderson tried to answer it, but missed. Cole and Fernard Venson of Long Beach Poly grappled for the loose ball and Venson was called for a foul.
Cole, who finished with 12 rebounds and 8 assists, made the free throws.