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Crenshaw's Offense Runs Opponents Out of Gas

March 12, 1994|SEAN WATERS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

ANAHEIM — Long Beach Poly High boys' basketball Coach Ron Palmer screamed at his players to slow down.

Edison center Micah Kroeger was running too hard to hear his coach's instructions.

If Crenshaw's first two regional opponents could offer advice to top-seeded Mater Dei (33-0), it would be to walk, don't try to outrun the Cougars (27-2).

"We tried to run with them and we got burned," said Kroeger, whose team lost to Crenshaw, 79-45, Tuesday in the first round of the regional. "To beat a team like Crenshaw, you have to be patient. You can't play their up-tempo style."

Crenshaw and Mater Dei meet at 7:30 tonight at Anaheim Arena in a rematch of last season's Southern California Regional final. Crenshaw beat the Monarchs, 63-61, that night when Kristaan Johnson made a layup at the buzzer. The Cougars, the City Section 4-A Division champions, are 3-0 against Mater Dei in regional play.

"The hype is over," Tremaine Fowlkes said. "This is what everyone wanted to see. There is nothing else to talk about."

The Cougars have won a record five State championships, including last season's Division I title, using a 1-3-1 or 1-2-2 trapping press that makes opposing teams rush the ball upcourt and out of their offense. When a team breaks the press, they can score easy layups. When they don't, they rush their shots or worse make turnovers.

But no matter what happens, Crenshaw manages to control the game and very few teams can maintain the pace for 32 minutes.

Thursday, Long Beach Poly made 16 turnovers in the first half, including 10 in the first quarter. The Cougars beat Poly, 66-59, in the second round.

"I thought the key to the game was the first five minutes," Palmer said. "The press bothered us early on. They're so quick. Even their big guys run the floor well. We had trouble getting the ball inbounds."

The Cougars also are a high scoring team, averaging 98 points, including two games that were stopped after the first half. They have scored 100 or more points 13 times this season, and twice scored more than 140 points. They have a 17-game winning streak with their only two losses coming against Philadelphia Simon Gratz and Richland (S.C.) Northeast in the Beach Ball Classic I in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

The Cougars are led by the "Big Three"--6-6 1/2 forward Fowlkes, 6-5 forward Johnson, and 6-6 shooting guard Reggie McFerren.

Fowlkes, who signed early with California, leads the team in scoring with an average of 25.5 points and 15.8 rebounds. Fowlkes gets most his points off the rebound.

"I think we're a much bigger and physically stronger team," Fowlkes said.

Johnson, the 1993 City Section player of the year, learned his post moves from his father--former UCLA and NBA star Marques Johnson. Johnson (23.3, 9.2) is particularly hard to stop when he backs his way toward the basket.

"Mater Dei is a real disciplined team with three or four good players," Johnson said. "We're going to try and force a tempo that they're not used to playing."

The Cougars' best outside shooter is McFerren (19.3, 6.6), who likes to shoot from the top of the key.

Tommie Davis, a 5-8 1/2 transfer from Fremont, played against Mater Dei during his sophomore season. Nicknamed Tank, Davis averaged in double figures in points and assists.

Ronnie Arch, a 6-5 guard is the team's top reserve and second best outside shooter.

Said Arch: "Our team is like a big bus. Mater Dei is a little Datsun B-210. We're on a mission to run them over."

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