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By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter
With one game remaining in the regular season, Whitney High’s boys basketball team needed to beat arch rival Oxford Academy last Thursday night to force a fourth place tie in the Academy League, and a play-in game. The Wildcats did just that, then routed Oxford Academy last Friday afternoon 58-17 to earn what they thought was the league’s final automatic berth to the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division 5AA playoffs.
Those two wins were then turned into a loss and a “no contest” as Whitney learned last weekend it had to forfeit its last two league victories because it exceeded the maximum number of contests allowed by the CIF-SS in a season. As a result, Whitney finishes the regular season officially at 12-17 overall and 3-9 in league play. The Wildcats also forfeited their 60-53 win at Calvary Chapel Downey on Feb. 2 and the play-in game does not count towards their overall record.
In high school basketball, as well as most other sports, you are allowed one game towards league and non-league games and two games towards each tournament played. Whitney played in 12 league contests and three tournaments for 18 of its 20 allowable games. Whitney also played in four non-league games, two more than they were allowed. An email to first-year head coach Wade Morris on the forfeiture of the games earlier this week was not returned.
But before the bad news was delivered to Morris and his team, the Wildcats were in complete control of the play-in game, scoring 18 straight points from the 3:30 mark of the first quarter to 46 seconds into the second quarter. After the Patriots ended that scoring streak, the Wildcats went on an 11-0 run highlighted by a behind the back pass from junior Adi Jahic to junior Jonan Baladjay which made the score 23-4. Whitney would lead 34-5 at the half, a far cry from the 26-20 halftime deficit it had less than 24 hours earlier.
“I think it was more pressure yesterday because they wanted to beat them yesterday to play this game today,” Morris said. “They were looser this game than they were yesterday. I just told them to eat right, sleep right and be ready to play.”
Whitney refused to let the foot off the pedal in the third quarter, outscoring Oxford Academy 22-8 in the stanza and grabbing 13 rebounds. Both teams would then add a basket each in the fourth quarter under a running clock situation. At one point, Whitney had outscored Oxford Academy 43-7 over a span of 18:06 between the two games. Because of that, Morris had a strong message to his team at halftime.
“Do not disrespect them by playing down,” Morris said. “You play your best. It’s a basketball team. You don’t laugh at them [and] you don’t tease them. You treat them as equals. That’s what I told them.”
Junior Heaven Flores, who paced the Wildcats with 23 points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals last Thursday, led the team with 16 points and four steals last Friday. Junior Daniel Sou came off the bench to score 11 points and grab three rebounds while senior Peter Kang added 10 points and six rebounds and Jahic pitched in with eight boards.
“I’ve never been in this position before,” Morris said. “This is the first play-in game I’ve ever [coached] and the guys really responded well. They really played well.”
In other boys basketball action, Artesia High travelled to Lompoc-based Cabrillo High and lost to the champions from the Los Padres League 68-37 this past Wednesday night in a Division 3A first round game. The Pioneers, who came in fourth place in the Suburban League, end their campaign at 15-12.
Cerritos High, which finished in third place in the Suburban League, fell to Mission College Prep High 80-61 this past Wednesday night in a Division 2AA first round game. The Dons conclude their season at 13-15, its first losing mark since the 2012-2013 season.
Valley Christian High went on the road and held off Palm Springs High 73-69 this past Wednesday night in a Division 2A first round game. The 11th seeded Crusaders, who finished in a third place tie in the Olympic League with Whittier Christian High but earned an at-large bid, improved to 15-13. V.C. will travel to sixth seeded Rancho Christian High tonight. A win will most likely set up a home game with third seeded Knight High on Tuesday.
In Division 1AA action, Gahr High will travel to Los Alamitos High tonight in a second round game. The Gladiators (18-9 overall) were co-champions of the San Gabriel Valley League and are the 10th seeded team in the division. Los Alamitos, the co-champions from the Sunset League, is the ninth seeded team.
Cerritos, the co-champions of the Suburban League, drew a Division 3AA first round bye and will host the winner of the Thousand Oaks High/Long Beach Wilson High game on Saturday night. The Lady Dons bring a 17-9 record into the contest and are the seventh seeded team in the division.
Also in the division, Gahr hosted El Monte High on Feb. 16 and with a victory, will face the victor of the Oxnard-based Pacifica High/Garden Grove-based Pacifica High game on Saturday. Gahr finished in third place in the San Gabriel Valley League and has an overall record of 14-11.
In Division 4AA action, Valley Christian will travel to La Quinta High in Westminster on Saturday night. Both teams received a first round bye. V.C., the second place team from the Olympic League, enters with an 18-7 record but has lost four of its last five games. Still, the Lady Crusaders are the third seeded team in the division. La Quinta, co-champions of the Garden Grove League, are seeded 14th.
Whitney High, an at large representative from the Academy League, travelled to the California Academy of Math and Science on Feb. 16 in a Division 4A first round game. The Lady Wildcats were 13-11 in the regular season while CAMS finished in second place in the Coastal League. Should Whitney come away with a win, it will travel to seventh seeded Holy Martyrs High on Saturday night.
A trio of area schools advanced to the playoffs with all three hosting first round games. In Division 4 action, Norwalk High will entertain Oaks Christian High today, weather permitting. The Lancers (13-6-1 overall) are ranked 10th in the division and finished in a three-way tie for first place in the Suburban League with Bellflower High and Mayfair High. Oaks Christian finished in third place in the Marmonte League.
Valley Christian, the five-time defending Olympic League champions, hosted Hesperia High, the third place team from the Mojave River League, on Feb. 16 in a Division 6 first round game. Hesperia is the third ranked team in the division but the Crusaders are 12-6-3 and have not lost since Dec. 16, a stretch of 10 games.
Whitney finished in second place in the Academy League and will host St. Michael’s Prep today, weather permitting. The Wildcats are the eighth ranked team in the division and went through the regular season 11-4-1. It’s the most victories since the 2000-2001 season when the ‘Cats went 11-8-2 and the four losses are the fewest in over 19 seasons. Whitney did go 10-6-3 seven seasons ago and advanced to the quarterfinals. The program has not gotten out of the first round since then.
Valley Christian, the second ranked team in Division 6, was home to Woodcrest Christian High on Feb. 16 in a first round game. The Lady Crusaders were 16-3-3 in the regular season and champions of the Olympic League. They are also riding an eight game winning streak and a 15-game non losing streak. Woodcrest Christian is the fourth place representative out of the Ambassador League.