Melee mars ending of UA Holiday Classic National Division semifinal and changes outcome of game, as Redondo Union (Redondo Beach, Calif.) advances to Tuesday championship game versus Fairfax (Los Angeles), which is impressive in victory over Centennial (Corona, Calif.)
It’s unfortunate when emotions, or a lack of control over them, affect the outcome of a hard-fought high school basketball game. But that’s exactly what happened on Monday night in the National Division semifinal contest of the Under Armour Holiday Classic at Torrey Pines (Del Mar, Calif.).
With The Patrick School (Elizabeth, N.J.) leading Redondo Union (Redondo Beach, Calif.) 54-51 following a clutch 3-pointer by junior guard Bryce Aiken with less than a minute remaining in the contest, Redondo Union’s Leland Green drove to the basket with the shot clock winding down — and with the opportunity for the Sea Hawks to win the game closing. Green’s lay-up attempt was blocked by The Patrick School’s sophomore center Nicholas Richards. After a follow-up attempt by Redondo’s Billy Preston was off, The Patrick School’s Jamir Harris came up with the rebound.
The Patrick School got the ball up court to Aiken, who was fouled by Redondo guard Elijah Nesbit with just under eight seconds remaining. It seemed as if all the Celtics had to do at that point was inbounds the ball one more time (they were not yet in the foul bonus) and make a free throw to secure the victory — and remain unbeaten on their young season.
As Aiken slid on the floor, he and Nesbit got into a scrum as he attempted to get up off the floor. Other players got involved in the mini melee and coaches (and other adults) on both sides did a good job of keeping the melee from turning into an all out brawl (SEE VIDEO).
It began near the foul line closest to The Patrick School bench and when it was all said and done and order restored, two players from Redondo (Preston and Nesbit) and five Celtics players (including Aiken) were ejected from the game.
The referees ruled Redondo Union was to shoot six technical foul shots, while the Celtics didn’t shoot any. Redondo’s Ryse Williams made five of them to give the Sea Hawks a 56-54 lead and The Patrick School actually had to foul one more time to put Redondo on the line because of the bonus situation. With 6.6 seconds to go, Williams made two more free throws to account for the final two points as Redondo Union came away with a 58-54 victory after a futile 3-point attempt by the Celtics was off.
The Patrick School led Redondo Union 42-37 entering the final quarter of play. Of Redondo’s 19 points in the final period, 17 were scored via the free throw line. The Celtics made two free throws in the final eight minutes of the game.
The ending marred what was a hard-fought game between two clubs worthy of FAB 50 ranking consideration. The loss dropped the Patrick School to 4-1, while Redondo Union, which won the Tarkanian Classic before Christmas, improved its record to 11-2.
Williams, a rapidly-improving 6-foot-2 sophomore, led Redondo Union with 14 points. Preston finished with 12 points while Green added eight. Richards, an immensely talented sophomore with all the high majors vying for his services, led The Patrick School with 15 points. Sophomore guard Marcus McClary had 11 points and Aiken, one of the country’s top junior guards who’s been nursing injuries to begin the season, added seven points.
Unfortunately, the melee overshadowed an excellent performance by Fairfax (Los Angeles) in its 69-62 semifinal victory over Corona (Centennial, Calif.), which began the season No. 12 in the Grassroots Hoops FAB 50 but just dropped its third game of the season. With its semifinal victory, Fairfax improved to 9-0 on the season and displayed an excellent brand of team ball that firmly puts Harvey Kitani’s unit in the FAB 50 conversation. The melee, however, means Redondo Union will play the title game without two of its most important cogs, while The Patrick School will be decimated in the third place game versus Centennial. Ejections lead to a suspension in the following game.
Fairfax with in control throughout its semifinal and its excellent guard play allowed the Lions to overcome a spectacular performance by Centennial senior guard Sedrick Barefield. The SMU-bound dynamo netted 33 points and did as much as he could to keep the Huskies in the game. Centennial was in striking range and had a chance to make it a one-point possession with less than a minute to go in the game, but Jordan Griffin’s 3-pointer was off target with his team trailing by five points.
Fairfax’s Lorne Currie missed the front end of a one-and-one situation right before Griffin’s attempt, but that was about the only thing he did wrong. The senior guard, a transfer from St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) who previously attended Fairfax, played under control in a fast-paced game and Fairfax’s guards didn’t run into major trouble handling Centennial’s pressure defense. Usually Centennial is quick to close passing lanes and bother field goal attempts, but that’s exactly what Fairfax was able to do to them. Currie led a key spurt in the second quarter, including a eight-foot shot right before the halftime buzzer, that gave the Lions a 35-28 advantage.
Currie had 14 points in the first half and finished with a team-high 25 points. Junior shooting guard Donald Gipson added 14 points for Fairfax, while senior Isaiah Ajiboye added 10 points. The senior leadership and defensive length of point guard Lindsey Drew, an ASU commit who will matriculate to Tempe, Ariz., after a year of prep school at IMG Academy in Florida, was also key for Fairfax. He finished with seven points.
Besides Barefield, juniro center Ike Anigbogu was Centennial’s other double-digit scorer with 13 points.
“Coach told us Centennial was going to try to get us to speed up,” Currie said. “He told us not to fall in the trap and fall into what they wanted us to do. Lindsey and the guards as a group played well.
“I have to give credit to the team for my performance. I’ve been on a lot of teams, but this one is different. We actually hang out together off the court and there is good chemistry.”
Currie hopes that chemistry leads to a UA Holiday Classic on Tuesday — even though the pressure will now be on Fairfax to beat a short-handed club.