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ERIC SONDHEIMER / ON HIGH SCHOOLS

In Division 1AA, Southern Section got it right

Mater Dei vs. Loyola and Long Beach Poly vs. Etiwanda will be intriguing matchups of basketball heavyweights in the semifinals Tuesday.

February 26, 2012|Eric Sondheimer
  • Loyola's Parker Cartwright dribbles past Harvard-Westlake's Josh Hearlihy, left, and Michael Sheng in the second half of a game earlier this season.
Loyola's Parker Cartwright dribbles past Harvard-Westlake's… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)

The only ingredient missing is Dick Vitale screaming, "He's a diaper dandy, baby."

It's going to be a Final Four-like atmosphere Tuesday night at the Anaheim Convention Center, with the four best teams in Southern Section Division 1AA set to put on a show during what should be an unforgettable night of high school basketball.

It can't get more intriguing than the matchups of Santa Ana Mater Dei taking on Los Angeles Loyola at 8:15 and Long Beach Poly facing Etiwanda at 6:30 in back-to-back semifinal playoff games.

"I think it's great for Southern California," Loyola Coach Jamal Adams said. "We're terribly excited."

There have been issues involving this year's Southern Section playoffs, including public schools' getting slaughtered in Division 4AA, but no one can disagree that the Southern Section got it right in creating what figures to be a terrific opportunity to see a group of future college standouts playing their hearts out for the chance to win a championship.

"Mater Dei has the all-time winningest coach in the history of the state," Adams said of Gary McKnight. "Katin Reinhardt is probably the state player of the year. They're a great basketball team. We've locked horns with them in the last couple of years, and we'll answer the bell."

Yes, Loyola is the underdog against the top-seeded Monarchs, but beware. The Cubs have gotten healthy, and guards Parker Cartwright, Jacob Hazzard and Justin Childress are capable of running and gunning with Mater Dei's guards on a given night.

The other semifinal should be filmed for presentation at a coaches' clinic demonstrating good defense. It's going to be a defensive war, as it always is when Poly and Etiwanda play. The coaches, Sharrief Metoyer of Poly and Dave Kleckner of Etiwanda, would have it no other way.

This is the fifth time in the last three seasons they've played in the postseason. Each game goes down to the final minute. Each game leaves players with bumps, bruises and scratches. And the coaches are left physically and emotionally drained.

Poly junior standouts Roschon Prince and Jordan Bell will be tested by Etiwanda's quick, tough, durable young players, led by sophomore sensation Jordan McLaughlin.

If you can't make it, FoxSportsWest.com will show the games live on the Web. The winners advance to Saturday's final.

There are also two outstanding 1AA semifinals in girls' basketball set for 3 and 4:45 p.m. The matchups are Mater Dei vs. unbeaten Corona Santiago and Long Beach Poly vs. Brea Olinda.

Dunk madness

Something must have been put into the Southern California water system, because I've never seen so many high school basketball players making spectacular dunks. It's as if they take a jumping pill before the game.

Skylar Spencer, a 6-foot-8 senior at Los Angeles Price, deserves to be in an NBA dunk competition. He's going to become a fan favorite next season at San Diego State.

Gabe York, a 6-3 senior at Orange Lutheran, had perhaps the best dunk of the season in a playoff game against Dana Hills, taking a lob and putting it down with one hand.

Grant Jerrett, a 6-10 senior at La Verne Lutheran, is getting at least five dunks a game.

The only surprise is that someone hasn't shattered a backboard.

Freshmen phenoms

What a year it has been for freshman guards. Marcus LoVett Jr. of Burbank Providence is averaging 31.7 points. Tyler Dorsey of Los Angeles Ribet is averaging 21.7. Max Hazzard of Loyola is coming on strong.

But let me name another freshman guard rising up in the playoffs. It's Ellis Salahuddin of Gardena Serra, a point guard who makes clutch shots, is cool under pressure and takes charging fouls. The Cavaliers are going to build around him in the future.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

twitter.com/latsondheimer

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