Alemany's Max Guercy has played a vital role in leading the Warriors… (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles…)
Max Guercy's journey in high school basketball ends Saturday in the Division III state championship game in Sacramento.
What an appropriate setting for a senior point guard from Mission Hills Alemany whose resilience and perseverance have helped turn skeptics into believers.
"From the beginning of the season, I played with a chip on my shoulder," he said. "This year, I've been able to win. The schools that have offered me scholarships, they're seeing that size doesn't matter and know I can play."
The 5-foot-9 Guercy began the year with zero college offers. He's ending it with offers from Hawaii, Hartford, Northeastern and others.
"The hard work paid off," he said.
From the moment he arrived at Alemany, Guercy was identified by Coach Tray Meeks as a player who could lead the Warriors to unprecedented success. How else to explain that Guercy, as a 14-year-old freshman, was named captain of the varsity basketball team?
"I averaged the most points and a lot of the guys and even the seniors were telling the coach I should be captain," Guercy said. "I just tried to earn my respect by just playing. I didn't have the leadership. I've learned how to be a leader on the floor."
Guercy remembers going to a championship game at Honda Center with Meeks his freshman year and watching Studio City Harvard-Westlake play Cerritos Gahr.
"He told me, 'We're going to get there one year,'" Guercy said.
Everything has happened during Guercy's senior year. A first tournament title. A first Mission League title. A first Southern Section Division 3A title. And on Saturday at 2:45 p.m. at Power Balance Pavilion, Alemany (32-4) will play San Francisco Sacred Heart Cathedral (28-5) for the state Division III championship.
"I know we've had a great journey," Guercy said. "It would be nice to top it off with a state championship."
Meeks, 35, in his seventh season as coach, was so emotional after Alemany's 62-61 win over Bellflower St. John Bosco in the Southern California Regional final that he could hardly talk as players celebrated. He embraced Guercy, and it was clear how much the two have relied on each other over the last four years.
"All he's done is work hard," Meeks said. "He's nothing but stellar."
Guercy has always trusted Meeks and listened to his words of encouragement.
"Coach Meeks has always believed in me," Guercy said. "He said, 'Keep being that leader on the floor, keep doing what you're doing.' My coach told me, 'Don't worry, keep playing. Schools will come in late,' and it's happened."
With a 3.6 grade-point average and a work ethic coaches dream about, Guercy is the ideal court leader. Guercy and 6-foot-4 leaper Marqueze Coleman, a Nevada-bound senior, have managed to help Alemany get past the likes of Parker Cartwright and Los Angeles Loyola and London Perrantes and Encino Crespi during Mission League play.
Cartwright, a sophomore point guard, has scholarship offers from UCLA and USC. Perrantes, a junior point guard, has scholarship offers from USC, San Francisco and Pepperdine.
Said Crespi Coach Russell White on Guercy: "I think he makes that team go. Our objective every time we have played them is to stop him. Keep him out of the paint. Keep him off the boards."
Said St. John Bosco Coach Derrick Taylor: "He's relentless. He's feisty. He plays the game like a grown man."
Looking back, Guercy is proud of what he, his coach and his teammates have accomplished.
"He handed me the keys to the car and wanted me to ride things, and it's a blessing where we are," Guercy said.