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Artesia finishes 5-1 on six-day odyssey

February 01, 2007|Dan Arritt | Times Staff Writer

With tired legs and weary eyes, the Lakewood Artesia High boys' basketball team took the court Wednesday night for its third game in three nights, with 5,000 miles of travel and a little O.J. Mayo sandwiched in between.

The Pioneers accomplished what they needed most, however, with a 72-55 victory over visiting La Mirada that moved them into sole possession of first place in the Suburban League.

"It was exhausting," said senior forward James Harden, one of four players who scored in double figures for Artesia. "We had to get through it as best as we could, but we got through it."

The difficult stretch actually began last weekend, when Artesia posted victories Friday against visiting Norwalk Glenn and Saturday against San Diego Crawford at Carlsbad High.

But those were just appetizers compared to what the Pioneers faced this week.

Artesia, ranked No. 2 in the Southland by The Times, traveled to No. 9 Lakewood Mayfair for a league game Monday night and escaped with a 77-72 victory, then boarded a plane just before 11 p.m. for its game Tuesday night in North Carolina against Huntington (W.Va.), led by Mayo, the USC-bound guard considered one of the top high school players in the nation.

The Pioneers landed in Durham, N.C,. at 6:30 a.m., headed straight for Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke University and practiced for two hours, then were forced to wait three hours in their hotel lobby before their rooms were ready.

"That didn't help anybody," Coach Loren Grover said. "There were also some food issues with trying to eat on time. It just made everything a little difficult."

Artesia, ranked No. 11 in the nation by USA Today, played well for 3 1/2 quarters against No. 2 Huntington, but the Pioneers wilted down the stretch and lost, 73-66.

Harden said he was satisfied with their defense against Mayo, limiting him to 19 points before he fouled out with 2:40 left.

"We contained him," Harden said. "We just couldn't finish the game off."

The Pioneers left their hotel at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday for their 8 a.m. flight, which stopped over in Atlanta before landing in Los Angeles around noon.

Artesia junior guard Malik Story, who has also committed to USC, said the toughest part of the endeavor was jet lag.

"You're tired and you really can't sleep because you're cramping and stuff," he said. "It was real hard."

The weakness in Artesia's legs showed against La Mirada, which had upset the Pioneers, 67-65, on Jan. 17.

Artesia made only three of 22 three-point shots in the rematch, but the Pioneers were strong on the offensive boards and in transition, scoring 37 of their 42 first-half points in the paint or from the free-throw line.

The Pioneers (22-2, 9-1) led by 14 at halftime, but missed their first five shots and committed four turnovers to begin the third quarter as the Matadors pulled to within 42-36.

La Mirada (18-6, 8-2) stayed within single digits until the Pioneers' 10-0 run late in the fourth quarter put the game away.

"It took a while to get our energy back," Grover said. "We finally got that emotional wave back and hung on the rest of the way."

Renardo Sidney, a 6-foot-10 sophomore center for Artesia, had a team-high 24 points and 10 rebounds, Story scored 15 points, A.J. Gasporra had 13 and Harden 10.

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