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Mills Grinds Down Cleveland in 78-69 Victory : Forward Has 42 Points, 17 Rebounds as Fairfax Continues Dominance Over Cavaliers

December 16, 1987|STEVE ELLING | Times Staff Writer

It probably ranks right up there with the most embarrassing on-court experiences that Chris Mills has ever had.

The scene: seconds into the first quarter of Tuesday night's game with Cleveland High at Fairfax.

The particulars: Mills, the 1987 City Section 4-A Division player of the year, streaking toward the basket, ball in hand, ready to hand-blast some orange paint off the back of the rim with a dunk that would make women and children cringe.

The net result: Mills, all 6 feet, 7 inches of him, chips the paint all right, with a jam into the right side of the rim.

As far as errors go, however, Mills made few others. As far as thrills go, Mills provided most of them as Fairfax defeated Cleveland, 78-69, in the Valley League opener for Cleveland.

Mills scored a game-high 42 points--more than half of the team total--grabbed 17 rebounds and blocked 4 shots. He also jammed home four dunks, sort of like he needed to atone for his initial miss.

"The guy grabbed my right side when I was going in for the dunk," Mills said, laughing. "I guess the ref didn't see it or something, because he sure didn't call it."

Call it what you will. Here's what Cleveland Coach Bob Braswell had to say: "That guy is the best player I've seen in the City since John Williams. He scores, he plays at the other end of the court, he rebounds, he blocks shots. I have nothing but respect for Chris Mills."

It stands to reason that Cleveland forward Richard Branham is also a little in awe of Mills. Branham entered the game with a team-high 18.6 point average. He had just been named the most valuable player of the Tournament of Champions at Amador Valley High, one of the best tournaments in the state.

Tuesday, however, Branham had some kind of Mills-stone around his neck. Mills held him scoreless in the first half on 0-for-5 shooting. Branham finished with only eight points.

Mills, who will attend Kentucky next season, scored 17 points in the first quarter, 6 in the second, 9 in the third and 10 in the fourth.

After Fairfax took a 37-32 lead at the half--Cleveland was 0-for-9 shooting in the second quarter, making all nine points on free throws--Branham helped lead a rally in the third. Fairfax jumped out, 43-32, before Branham scored his first points of the night with 6:05 left in the quarter. Branham scored six points in the quarter and reserve guard Joey Manliguis, who finished with 13 points, added five as the Cavaliers (4-2, 0-1) rallied to within 54-53 heading into the fourth. Cleveland outscored Fairfax, 21-17, in the third period to cut the gap.

But as they did in the second quarter, the Cavs disappeared in the fourth. Once again, Fairfax went to Mills, who received a hand from Andre Durity, the only other returning starter from last season's championship team. Durity scored nine of his 17 points in the fourth.

Fairfax scored two quick baskets to take a five-point lead and answered a basket by Cleveland's Damon Greer with two more baskets to take a 63-55 lead.

Branham scored inside, but the Lions made 5 of 6 free throws--Fairfax made 29 of 36 in the game--to take a 68-57 lead with 3:16 left. Cleveland tried fouling the Lions to regain possession, but Fairfax was just as deadly from the line with the game on the line, making 13 of 19 free throws in the period to clinch the game.

Mills administered the coup de grace with another Richter-scale-registering jam with 18 seconds left.

Mills, who entered the game averaging 31 points a game, even tossed in a three-pointer for good measure, during the third quarter.

Measure? It was the second league game for Fairfax (4-0, 2-0 in league), but Coach Harvey Kitani said it was an important one for the Lions.

"That was big," he said. "I'd rather have played them a little later in the year so we could have been more prepared, but I guess it turned out OK."

It was Fairfax's fifth consecutive victory over the Cavs, which includes Cleveland's only four losses last season--one in the 4-A final in March.

"We had the opportunity to set the record straight," Braswell said. "I don't know if that's bothering them or not, I can't read minds. It's not in my head, I know that.

"I've been saying all year that if we don't play aggressively and play our own game, we can be beaten by anybody. Not just Fairfax, anybody."

Cleveland guard Adonis Jordan finished with 17 points, as did forward Damon Charlot.

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