It will be a Redondo Union-Putnam City West championship game in the Tarkanian Classic Platinum Division, as Redondo Union squeaks out a win over FAB 50 No. 12 Corona Centennial. No. 33 Putnam City West pulls out a buzzer-beating overtime win over Las Vegas Bishop Gorman. Read on for analysis and comments from winners.
Coach Reggie Morris Jr. didn’t want to focus on what his team at Redondo Union (Redondo Beach, Calif.) did in last year’s Tarkanian Classic Platinum Division semifinal, when it was completely routed by a Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) team that eventually finished No. 2 in the final 2013-14 FAB 50 rankings.
Instead, Morris Jr. wanted his club to focus on the task hand — trying to take down the nation’s No. 12 ranked team from Centennial (Corona, Calif.). After all, this year’s team has a plethora of newcomers and some inexperienced players it relies on. What the Sea Hawks did focus on and accomplish was forcing Centennial to turn the ball over more than anticipated because of their relentless ball pressure to hold on and pull out a 55-54 victory to advance to Saturday’s 5 p.m. (PT) championship game.
The victory wasn’t sucure until Centennial couldn’t get off a clean look with 1.1 seconds remaining, as it was forced to take the ball out of bounds 70 feet from its own goal in front of the Redondo Union bench after point guard Elijah Nesbit grabbed a rebound under the basket and heaved it toward the backcourt out of bounds. The Huskies had to use two timeouts to get the ball inbounds on their final play and when they finally got the ball in, sophomore center Jalen Hill got the ball forty feet from the basket and quickly tried to pass the ball to Sedrick Barefield on the wing. The final buzzer sounded before the Huskies could get off any look at the basket, much less a clean one.
Redondo Union (7-2) led 55-53 when reserve forward Jeremiah Headley missed two free throws to give the Huskies a chance to tie or take the lead. Centennial had more than one opportunity to tie the game, but a turnover at midcourt with 1:16 remaining and trouble on its last possession spelled doom.
“We didn’t want to put last year’s (semifinal) loss on this group of guys because it’s not on them, it’s a different group,” Morris jr. said. “We actually didn’t talk about it much. We wanted to get after it and I thought we mirrored them in many ways. Both teams play hard. We definitely can play better and we were without (usual starter) Cameron Williams. We put in our game plan and just see if it works. We can play a bunch of different ways.”
Senior guard Ryan Reeves and junior guard Morgan Means stepped up in Williams’ absence, hitting big shots and handling Centennial’s excellent ball pressure. Means finished with nine points and two assists while Reeves netted eight points, including a big 3-pointer for the Sea Hawks.
Once again junior guard Leland Green was outstanding for Redondo, as he scored a team-high 14 points, grabbed eight rebounds and came up with three steals.
Centennial had 22 turnovers as a team to Redondo’s 10 and that was a major factor in the outcome. Despite playing sluggishly at the beginning, the Huskies crawled back in the game after trailing 32-24 at halftime. Redondo’s lead grew to as big as 11 points, but Centennial (5-1) eventually tied it at 46-46 with 6:34 remaining in the game and it was tight the rest of the way.
Barefield, a senior guard bound for SMU, led Centennial with 17 points, but he also committed seven turnovers. Junior wing Jordan Griffin added 14 points and eight rebounds, including 4-of-10 shooting from 3-point range.
Morris Jr. felt as if Centennial is plenty like his own club, and the team Redondo Union will face in the championship game also relies of its perimeter pressure defense and rebounding from players that often times are at a size disadvantage. That team is FAB 50 No. 33 Putnam City West (Putnam City, Okla.). It took overtime to do it, but the Patriots were able to outlast host and much bigger Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) 52-50 to move its season record to 7-0 heading into the title contest.
In a wild game that featured some spectacular individual play, some odd calls by the referees and some crucial turnovers, Putnam City just kept coming and was able to win the game on a layup at the overtime buzzer by sophomore guard Nick Robinson. There were actually three turnovers in the closing minute of overtime with the game tied at 50-50, including a costly 10 second call on Putnam City shooting guard Tyson Jolly near mid court. On the ensuing play, Bishop Gorman was called for a five second call.
Putnam City turned the ball over again, and Gorman’s Nick Blair drove down the lane, but wasn’t able to convert in front of the rim with approximately 5.8 seconds remaining. That’s when 6-foot-5 senior forward Dedrian Parmer came out of the scrum with the ball, kicked it up to Jolly, who dribbled just pass mid court and found Robinson on the right wing. Jolly hit him with a bounce pass that Robinson softly kissed off the backboard right before the final buzzer went off.
The Putnam City bench mobbed the court and afterwards, Jolly credited Robinson for not hanging his hat when it seemed like his team might let the game get away in the closing minutes because of its shaky ball-handling.
“We just wanted to come out and play hard and I told Nick to keep his head up after those turnovers,” Jolly said. “I just have to give the credit to God on that last play.”
Jolly, who arguably has been the most spectacular individual player in the tournament’s Platinum Division so far, finished with 24 points on 10-of-19 shooting and had three steals. He puts so much pressure on opposing defenses with his ability to drive and finish, or elevate for jumpers. Jolly also can pull up in the lane and finish with half hooks or runners. Simply put, he’s one of the fast-rising unsigned senior recruits in the country after missing half of his junior season with blood clots.
Robinson, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, made two field goals and finished with six points. Junior point guard Marquis Johnson did have three turnovers, but he made some clutch baskets, finishing with 12 points. Johnson also was a terror against Bishop Gorman on defense, collecting six steals.
Bishop Gorman (8-3) was led by power forward Stephen Zimmerman, who continues to show why he’s one of the most skilled post players to come from the Western United States in some time. He had 13 points, 13 rebounds and four assists.
Blair might have missed Gorman’s final shot, but the Gaels likely wouldn’t have been in the game without his contributions, or those of senior 6-foot-1 guard Ugo Amadi. Blair, a 6-foot-5 senior, had a team-high 14 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots. Amadi nailed three 3-pointers and finished with 13 points.
Gorman will face Centennial for third place in a game that will feature the two highest ranked preseason FAB 50 teams participating in the tournament. Putnam City West began the season No. 39 in the FAB 50, one spot ahead of currently unranked Redondo Union.