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Knights' Coach Can't Explain Playoff Loss

March 03, 2003|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

Sportswriters across Southern California went into scramble mode last week when the score appeared on their computer screens:

Banning 81, Torrance Bishop Montgomery 76.

Must be a mistake. Quick, someone call for confirmation.

They say it's true? Find a third source.

Five days later, even Bishop Montgomery Coach Doug Mitchell had a tough time convincing himself that his team's season was over.

"A lot of people are calling and asking, `What happened? What happened?' " said the shell-shocked coach. "A lot of things. We didn't handle their pressure, and we played not to lose rather than to win."

Bishop Montgomery was not the only top-seeded team to lose during a week of February Frenzy in the Southern Section boys' basketball playoffs. Orange Lutheran and San Bernardino San Gorgonio also fell victim to unseeded teams on the underdogs' home courts.

But no upset was more remarkable than the one suffered in the Division III-A quarterfinals by the Knights (26-2), whose only previous loss had come against City Section power Los Angeles Fairfax in the opening week of the season.

"I don't want to take anything away from them," Mitchell said of Banning. "They played hard. But it was one of those nights where we couldn't seem to get anything going on either side of the court."

Bishop Montgomery fell behind early by double digits after the Banning crowd, which Mitchell called the toughest he has seen in 15 years of coaching, got behind the Broncos.

"It was a pretty raucous place," Mitchell said. "We panicked. We went for steals and got called for fouls. We just didn't respond very well."

The Knights trimmed their deficit to four points in the second half, but never put themselves in position to win despite the solid-as-expected play of Fred Washington, who had 24 points.

Senior Brandon McDade had 19 points and freshman Muadeeb Abdul-Aziz scored 17 for Banning (28-3), which ran out of magic in a semifinal loss to Compton Centennial.

Los Angeles Murphy also fell in the semifinals after knocking off top-seeded Orange Lutheran in the Division IV-AA quarterfinals, but that loss did not diminish the achievement of beating a heavy favorite, Noble Coach Andrew Hunter said.

"It felt really good, not just to beat them but to play the way we did," Hunter said after notching his first victory over a top-seeded team in 14 seasons. "That was probably our best game of the season."

Chuma Awaji made 21 free throws en route to a 43-point performance during Murphy's 70-61 victory over Lutheran.

Another prime-time performer was Inglewood's Ray Reed, who scored 25 points against San Gorgonio on Friday during the Sentinels' 70-64 triumph in a Division II-AA quarterfinal. Inglewood, which plays fourth-seeded Santa Barbara on Tuesday, is the only team to beat a top-seeded squad that's still in the playoffs.

"We're not done yet," Reed said. "We've got one more game to go before we get to the [Arrowhead] Pond and we're going to play like it's a championship game."


Thinking his team was "at least a couple of years away" from reaching the semifinals, Capistrano Valley Coach Brian Mulligan scheduled his postseason banquet for Tuesday.

But instead of feigning laughter over a few bad podium jokes, the fourth-seeded Cougars will be playing top-seeded Los Angeles Loyola in a Division I-A semifinal at Loyola Marymount.

"We had to readjust there," Mulligan said of the banquet.

Capistrano Valley (21-7) is still going because a few players have exceeded expectations. Against San Bernardino Cajon on Friday, Davis Baker scored a game-high 23 points. Center George Fedorovtsev was an imposing presence when he wasn't on the bench in foul trouble.

But no one came up bigger than point guard Chad DeCasas, who scored all eight of his points in the fourth quarter and made two free throws with 10.3 seconds left to seal the Cougars' 62-58 quarterfinal victory.

Perhaps that's why Mulligan labels the freshman someone "who plays well beyond his years."

Mulligan rescheduled the banquet for March 12. But if Capistrano Valley gets past Loyola (24-4) and into the championship game at the Pond, it gains an automatic entry into the state playoffs, which begin March 11.

Said Mulligan: "We may run into issues again."


McDonald's shutout of Southern California boys' basketball players for its prestigious All-Star game extended far beyond the Southland.

Former Southern California players Marcus Williams and Martin Iti, also among the 100 finalists, were not selected to the game.

Williams was an electric guard for Crenshaw who transferred to Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy for his senior season. He will play for Connecticut next season.

Iti, a 6-foot-11 center who played at Anaheim Servite during the 1999-2000 school year, eventually wound up at Durham (N.C.) Mt. Zion Christian Academy, his seventh high school in five states since arriving in the United States in May 1998. Iti will play for Charlotte.

Six finalists from Southern California schools did not make the team: Westchester forward Trevor Ariza, Carson forward Ekene Ibekwe, Villa Park forward Sean Phaler, Santa Ana Mater Dei forward D.J. Strawberry and guard Wesley Washington and Loyola guard Omar Wilkes.

"I wouldn't say the level of competition in Southern California is down this year," said Coach Patrick Roy of Inglewood, whose program last year featured McDonald's All-American forward DeAngelo Collins. "I just think you have a lot of teams that are balanced and everybody's sort of the same."

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