The slightly rusty Cleveland High basketball team spent the first few minutes of the L.A. Games oiling its gears Saturday at Hamilton High. Then the Cavaliers went into overdrive.
Cleveland, seeded No. 1 in the 128-team tournament, displayed spurts of inaccurate shooting and poor passing in the first half against Santa Ana Valley. At one point, Cleveland forward Richard Branham badly missed a slam dunk, slamming the ball against the rim and sending it rocketing toward the roof.
But the Cavaliers, who lost to Fairfax in last season's City Section 4-A final, polished up their game, took a 15-point lead at halftime and shined Santa Ana Valley, 73-35.
"We hadn't played in two weeks and in the beginning we were a little out of shape and made some dumb fouls," Cleveland Coach Bob Braswell said.
"But we picked it up in time," Cleveland guard Michael Gray said. Gray scored a game-high 26 points to lead the Cavaliers. Cleveland will play Morningside in the second round today at 9 a.m. at Hamilton
This year's tournament marked the initiation of the 3-point shot, but early in the game, Cleveland's Joey Manliguis and Santa Ana Valley's Steve Calhoun each made shots from behind the 19-foot-9-inch line and were credited with only two points. The confusion led to a temporary discrepancy on the scoreboard and a stoppage in play.
"The referees didn't know we were using the 3-point rule," Braswell said. "That's where the confusion was."
Not making the referees' job any easier was the line itself--it was crooked and failed to extend all the way to the baseline.
With the rule in force in the second half, Calhoun sank a 3-point shot to pull Santa Ana Valley to within 11 points at 35-24 early in the period. But Cleveland didn't need the long-distance shot. The Cavaliers opened a 46-29 lead and then scored 21 straight points to make it a blowout.
"I would say our defense did the job," Braswell said. "We got a lot of turnovers. That's what we preach in the program."
Cleveland has practiced the 3-point shot very little, Braswell said. "We just got around to putting the tape on the floor," he said.
Manliguis said that he and Gray have just begun to practice shooting with both feet behind the line and plan on shooting from long distance next season.
"We're going to work on it some more," said Manliguis, who finished with 10 points. "It's to our advantage and it's going to be an important part of the game."
Manliguis seemed to need little work on his passing. As the Cavaliers turned the game into a rout, the senior guard hit his teammates with several no-look passes--behind the back, behind the neck and over the shoulder.
"It just comes with the intensity of the game," he said. "It's an instinct. I couldn't do it right now."
Said Braswell: "My philosophy is to do what you do best. Our game is to run."