Although the debate over who is the best high school basketball player in Orange County is likely to continue, there is little doubt which is the best team.
Santa Ana High School put its claim on No. 1 Saturday night with a convincing 64-51 win over Woodbridge in the championship game of the Irvine World News tournament in UC Irvine's Bren Center.
The Saints rolled to their 10th straight win without a loss behind the play of 6-foot 7-inch center Bobby Joyce. Joyce scored 27 points, grabbed 21 rebounds and was named the most valuable player of the 28-team tournament.
The game was supposed to be a battle between Joyce and Woodbridge's 6-9 center, Adam Keefe, considered the two premier players in the county. Keefe finished with 24 points and 13 rebounds, despite getting little help from his teammates.
It was clear from the outset that the Saints had too much height and too many offensive weapons for Keefe and Co. Still, the main attractions managed to put on quite a show.
Among the highlights of Joyce's remarkable performance were two dunks coming off lob passes from point guard Scootie Lynwood. Joyce also dribbled between his legs at one point on a full-court drive for a layup and introduced a jump hook in the fourth quarter for a 57-45 lead.
Keefe, who has signed a letter of intent to attend Stanford University, took a pass from Derrick Odum for a neat drive to the basket and later scored on a rim-shaking dunk that tied the score, 30-30, early in the third quarter.
But for the most part, it was Joyce's show. He had 17 points in the eight-minute period, making six straight baskets at one point to personally finish off the Warriors.
"I thought both players were pretty awesome," said Greg Coombs, Santa Ana coach. "Bobby met the challenge. This was the first game where he didn't look dead in the last quarter.
"I told the team before the game that this is not Adam vs. Bobby, but Santa Ana vs. Woodbridge and play accordingly. Both those guys are great players, and they're going to get their points."
Until Saturday, Joyce's moment of notoriety came on the football field. Two weeks ago, he mishandled a probable interception into a last-second touchdown in the Saints' 13-12 loss to El Toro in the Southern Conference playoffs.
Joyce said he isn't trying to make up for the blunder on the basketball court.
"After we lost in football, I couldn't worry about it," he said. "Out here on the court, they (opponents) have to respect me. Adam Keefe is a great player, and I had to prove to myself that I'm right there next to him."
Bill Shannon, who saw his Woodbridge team slip to 5-3, said a third-quarter shooting lapse was his team's downfall.
"We went cold (4 of 15) in the third quarter," Shannon said. "I don't think we took bad shots, they just didn't drop. I thought we did a good job defensively, but we were outsized. But I can't complain, coming in second in a tournament this good."
Edison 60, Kennedy 59--Guard Alvin Loftis made three free throws in the final 39 seconds to help the Chargers (6-4) gain third place. Kennedy (2-4) held a nine-point lead in the third quarter, but Edison center Chris Lippincott led a comeback with 10 points in the last quarter. Lippincott finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds.
Saddleback 48, Capistrano Valley 42--Reserve Frank Larriva scored six points in the last quarter to spark the Roadrunners' fifth-place win. Saddleback (8-2) outscored the Cougars, 18-8, in the last quarter to overcome a four-point deficit. Gylan Dottin led the Roadrunners with 16 points and 7 rebounds.
Savanna 54, Irvine 52--In the consolation championship game, Irvine led, 27-24, at halftime, but Savanna outscored the Vaqueros, 14-7, in the third quarter to gain a lead it never relinquished.
Richard Kemple's 15 points and Robbie Booker's 13 led Savanna (8-2). Irvine (4-5) was led by Jerry Petersen with 19 points and Raphael Molle with 12.
Marina 72, University 56--Dan Floyd and David Yamate each scored 18 points, Steve Guild added 15, and freshman Cherokee Parks scored 10 to lead Marina (9-1) in the seventh-place game. Steve Stolzoff scored a game-high 22 points and Jeff Bailey had 11 to lead University (6-4).
Estancia 68, Paramount 58--Mike Curtis scored a game-high 29 points to lead the Eagles (8-3) in the ninth-place game. Chris Rupsa (19 points) and Tim Kjar (12) also scored in double figures. Kris Kover scored 25 points Paramount (8-3).
Long Beach Wilson 72, Los Amigos 52--Lantz Simpson scored 19 points and teammates Jim Senske 15 and Chris Bates 12 to lead Long Beach Wilson in the consolation fifth-place game. The Lobos were led by John Jenkins, with 16 points, Carlos Palomino with 13 and Jeff Booth with 11.
Laguna Hills 71, Artesia 52--Chris Sheff scored 19 points, Trent DeVreugd 16, and Mike Smedes and Kyle Roberts 12 each to lead the Hawks. Shandel White scored 22 points to lead Artesia.