Chino Hills (Calif.) makes a loud statement for the No. 1 spot in the first FAB 50 National Team Rankings of the New Year with a 96-80 victory over a game Redondo Union (Redondo Beach, Calif.) club to take the open division championship of the Maxpreps Holiday Classic. Its post-Christmas title follows up an even more impressive run to the City of Palms Tournament title before Christmas. Check out game highlights, comments and analysis.
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Redondo Union head coach Reggie Morris Jr. is a state championship-winning coach and respected among his coaching peers and the media as one of California’s best. But after seeing Chino Hills take apart a quality Jonesboro (Ga.) team in the semifinals, he walked out of the Rancho Mirage (Calif.) High School gym on Tuesday night not knowing exactly his plan of attack to slow down the RUN GMZ scoring machine.
Entering Wednesday night’s game, he had a game plan to slow down the long touchdown passes of UCLA-bound Lonzo Ball and Redondo Union accomplished that goal. But after Chino Hills came away with a 96-80 victory over his team, Morris Jr. had an assessment of what the difference was in the outcome and what a team needs to do in order to beat the Huskies.
“The difference in the game was in the fourth quarter when we didn’t rebound the ball,” Morris Jr. said. “There was a couple of balls there we didn’t get to and we gave them too many chances. As far as what teams need to do in order to defeat Chino Hills? Pray. Playing in high school gyms, they shoot the ball so well.”
There were two other main differences in the game, one factor which is usually more prevalent in football games rather than a high school basketball game – Chino Hills won the end of the first half and the beginning of the second. The game was knotted up at 33-33 in the second quarter, then Chino Hills (13-0) outscored Redondo Union 9-3 to end the second period and took a 42-36 lead into intermission.
At the beginning of the third period, Ball recorded seven assists in a three-minute span, as the Huskies shot better from the field after poor shooting first half. RUN GMZ outscored Redondo Union, 26-17, in the final quarter, as the Sea Hawks shot well themselves, but just ran out of offensive answers for arguably the most potent offensive team in the country.
The second difference in the outcome was Ball himself, as the 6-foot-5 senior demonstrated how he impacts high level games from the lead guard position more than any player in recent high school lore. His vast arsenal was only full display on Wednesday night, as he finished with 33 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, seven blocks and four steals. The entire grassroots basketball community has long known about the passing and rebounding ability, but what he’s doing better over the last six months is exploding by first defenders off the dribble and blocking shots. His shot blocking was key in Chino Hill’s COP title, and he’s now starting to intimidate defenders around the basket with his defensive ability.
Had his younger brothers LiAngelo Ball and LaMelo Ball shot a better percentage in the first half, there is no telling how many assists Zo would have ended up with. His younger brothers were 3-of-23 from the field in the first half. Redondo Union (10-3) shot an excellent percentage from the field — and still lost by 16 points. That should give one good perspective on what it’s going to take to beat Chino Hills this season.
Gelo Ball finished with 19 points while Melo Ball finished with 16 points. Zo Ball was named tournament MVP by the media in attendance, while Gelo joined him on the first five all-tourney team.
Ryse Williams, a 6-foot-2 junior, Morgan Means, a 6-foot-1 senior, and Leland Green, a 6-foot-2 senior, were all named to the second five all-tourney team for Morris Jr.’s club. Green, like Means an unsigned senior who colleges may be somewhat missing the boat on, finished with 16 points, six rebounds and three assists. Williams added 13 points and Means finished with seven points.
Redondo Union, which suffered two of its three losses at the Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas, gave a game effort and its resume will have to be broken down to see if its FAB 50-worthy. It avenged one of its three losses versus Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) in the California desert, but the Prestonwood Christian Academy (Plano, Texas) team the Sea Hawks lost in Sin City to went 2-2 at the Maxpreps Holiday Classic.
Bishop Gorman fell to Jonesboro (Ga.) 65-64 in the open division third place game, as the Gaels were unable to slow down all-tourney pick M.J. Walker. The Jonesboro standout junior wing finished with 39 points, making five 3-pointers in the process. One of the nation’s best football-basketball combo athletes a year ago, Walker sat out the 2015 football season and his stock as a basketball player is beginning to soar. He looked like a legitimate 2017 McDonald’s All-American candidate in this tournament and will be one of the most interesting players to evaluate on the grassroots circuit this spring and summer.
Despite Walker’s heroics, Gorman had a golden opportunity to win the game. With less than 10 seconds remaining in the game, Bishop Gorman put the ball in the hands of junior guard Christian Popoola Jr., who drive the baseline, got in the lane and threw a short pass to Gonzaga-bound center Zach Collins. There was a lot of bodies and traffic, but Collins was able to gather and score with .2 seconds remaining, but he was called for a charging foul and the Cardinals were able to run out the clock.
It was a tough call against Collins, who finished with 29 points.
As The Holiday Classic in San Diego (Calif.), Fairfax of Los Angeles won the national division title for the second consecutive season. In this year’s title game, the Lions jumped out all over Centennial (Corona, Calif.) and rolled to a 68-53 victory. LMU-bound guard Donald Gipson was named tourney MVP.
2015 Maxpreps Holiday Classic All-Tourney Team:
Lonzo Ball, Chino Hills – MVP
James Walker, Jr., Jonesboro (Ga.)
LiAngelo Ball, Chino Hills
Chuck O’Bannon Jr, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas)
Jordan Ratinho, De La Salle (Concord, Calif.)
Ryse Williams, Redondo Union (Redondo, Calif.)
Morgan Means, Redondo
Shacquille Dawkins, Alemany (Mission Hills, Calif.)
Leland Green, Redondo
Zach Collins, Gorman
Elizjah Scott, Chino Hills
Ronnie Flores is the national Grassroots editor of Ballislife.com. He can be reached at [email protected]. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores