Story/photo courtesy CCCMBCA/CCCAA
LEMOORE — Fans at the CCCAA Men's Basketball Championship at West Hills College in Lemoore got what they expected when south No. 1 seed West Los Angeles and West Valley, north No. 2, squared off for the right to advance to the state championship game on Sunday.
West Los Angeles (28-4) and West Valley (28-3) were two of the better defense teams in the state this season. So, as expected points were difficult to come by. But, in the end, West Valley outlasted West Los Angeles, 67-63 to advance to championship game Sunday at 3:30 pm. West Valley's victory ensures it will be an all-Northern California final as San Francisco City and Sequoias battle in the day's final game to move into the finals.
Early in the first half both teams showed their defensive attributes. Ten minutes into the game, the two teams had accounted for just 26 points. But it wasn't long before each showed their offensive brilliance. Over the course of the final 10 minutes of the first half, the two teams combined for 48 points, settling for a 37-37 halftime score.
The pace over the final 10 minutes was reminiscent of the Los Angeles Lasker's Showtime years as each team pushed the ball and looked to get into paint. The pace required re-enforcements, so each team relied on its bench— West Los Angeles used 13 players to West Valley's 11 — in the first half.
At times both team's offensive brilliance showed. After West Valley had opened its largest lead at 21-15, West Los Angeles' Justin Williams hit back-to-back three pointers and then completed a three-point play for a tie at 22 all with 5:13 left. The two teams would exchange baskets down the stretch and head to the locker room tied.
The first half featured four lead changes and six times the score was tied. While West Valley built a six-point lead, West Los Angeles never led by more than two points.
The second half was reminiscence of the first half as points proved difficult. But as West Valley extended its offensive play, the Vikings began to pull away, eventually opening a seven-point lead with 12 minutes left. West Los Angeles stuck with its game plan and continued to attack inside. And it paid off as West Los Angeles rallied to take a one-point lead with 8:29 remaining on a deep three pointer by Dyllan Young, his first of the game.
West Los Angeles was able to grow its lead to four, but then the Wildcats went cold as West Valley turned up its defense. The Wildcats went nearly four minutes without a point and scored just two points in the final 6:22. The Vikings capitalized, opening a three-point lead at 64-61 with 2:51 left. West Los Angeles got within one at 2:38 on a Matthew Mayes dunk, but was scoreless the final 2:38. The Wildcats finished with more turnovers than points in the final minutes of the contest.
The 67 points by West Los Angeles was the Wildcats' second lowest offensive output of the season. The Wildcats hadn't been held under 70 points since December 10 when Fullerton held the Wildcats to 59 points. West Los Angeles scored just 26 points in the second half.
Meanwhile, West Valley, which scored 22 points under its season average, won its 17th consecutive game but also struggled offensively.
"They are a really good defensive team, they guard and rebound very well," Danny Yoshikawa, head coach of West Valley, said of West Los Angeles. "But we made adjustments at half that allowed us to really shut them down in the second half. Listen, these are young guys, both teams, who have put their heart and soul into becoming the best basketball players that can become. So, there is always going to nerves, and I think that was on display a bit tonight. And it is reflective in the stats."
The Vikings managed 30 points in the second half. Neither team shot particularly well. West Valley shot 37 percent from the floor (22 of 59) and made just 9 of 31 three-pointers. West Los Angeles was 23 of 50 from the floor (46 percent) and made 12 of 21 three-pointers. Williams led all players with 18 points. Teammates Kalique Mitchell added 13 and Mayes chipped in 12.
West Valley was led by Adam Afifi with 15. Ben Baker added 14 and Quinn Denker had 12.
"Looking at the stats obviously you see that defense was on display," Yoshikawa said. "But, at the same time, if you look at all of the games this weekend many of the games have been low scoring. And that is because there are a number of really good defensive teams here. They are tough and athletic.
"We don't shoot as well as we can. We have some guys that can really shot, but we didn't make those shots tonight. But we made the ones that matter."