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ERIC SONDHEIMER / ON HIGH SCHOOLS

Nike tournament offers preview of 1AA playoffs

Long Beach Poly nabs 60-54 win over Bellflower St. John Bosco.

February 02, 2013|Eric Sondheimer

Fans attending Saturday's Nike Extravaganza at Santa Ana Mater Dei were given a sneak preview of the upcoming Southern Section Division 1AA boys' basketball playoffs.

There's a good chance that the future champion was on the court, but will it be Mater Dei, Long Beach Poly, Etiwanda or Los Angeles Loyola?

Those were the semifinalists a year ago, with Mater Dei winning the title, and there's no reason to think the same four teams won't be battling it out come the last week of February.

The one unknown factor is whether they will be able to withstand what figures to be much tougher early playoff tests thanks to a realignment that made the 1AA division off the charts in terms of depth.

Corona Centennial, Chino Hills, Mission Viejo, Santa Ana Foothill, Inglewood and Orange Lutheran are just a few of the potential obstacles that are ahead.

"It's crazy tough," said USC-bound Roschon Prince of Poly.

The Nike Extravaganza is played one week before seedings come out and offers an ideal glimpse at where the top teams stand.

Poly (22-2), ranked No. 2 in the division poll behind Mater Dei, picked up a 60-54 victory over Bellflower St. John Bosco by doing something that hasn't been a Jackrabbit strength — making free throws. The Jackrabbits made 10 of 12 free throws in the fourth quarter, led by Prince, who made six in a row and finished with 19 points.

St. John Bosco was without standout guard Isaac Hamilton, who was held out by Coach Derrick Taylor for undisclosed reasons. Tyler Dorsey scored 24 points.

Taylor has a good idea who's best in Southern California, having played Mater Dei, Poly and unbeaten Bishop Montgomery.

"No one's better than Mater Dei," he said. "I just think no one is as good as Stanley Johnson. Poly is the best defensive team we've seen."

Teams in 1AA have to be prepared for a gantlet of challenges.

"There's a lot of good teams," Orange Lutheran Coach Chris Nordstrom said after the Lancers took Las Vegas Bishop Gorman to overtime on Saturday before losing, 72-60. "We have to find a way to make it as difficult on those high-seeded teams as we can and fight to the death."

Poly and Etiwanda appear on a collision course to meeting in the playoffs for the sixth time in the last four seasons. 

Etiwanda's smothering defense was in playoff form in a 51-24 victory over Loyola.

"I thought we did a great job," Coach Dave Kleckner said.

Junior guard Jordan McLaughlin had 11 points in helping the Eagles (21-2) win their 19th consecutive game.

One of the individual stars at Mater Dei was Bishop Gorman's Rashad Muhammad, brother of UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad.

With Shabazz watching, Rashad made a three-pointer with 26 seconds left in regulation to tie the game for Bishop Gorman. He finished with 24 points in the overtime victory.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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