FAB 50 No. 10 Chino Hills (Calif.) runs its season record to 11-0 and now has won 46 games in a row after capturing the Platinum Division championship at the Tarkanian Classic with a 84-73 victory over No. 18 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.). LMU-bound Eli Scott and UCLA-bound Li'Angelo Ball were named co-MVPs as the Huskies continued their winning ways.
Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) came into Tuesday night's Tarkanian Classic championship game with the talent and motivation to hand Chino Hills (Calif.) its first defeat in 46 outings. The Monarchs have strong, skilled and smart players, but as Chino Hills has proven during the course of its winning streak, it's hard to prepare for an unconventional style with a team with as much talent as the Huskies.
Chino Hills had trailed in each of its three championship bracket games heading into the title game, but versus the Monarchs they were in complete control throughout and posted a 84-73 win despite the Huskies' star guards missing a bushel loads of shots. The difference was the ferocious rebounding, relentless effort and refuse-to-lose attitude of its various components. Last season, the catalyst was point guard Lonzo Ball, but this season so far its been a different couple of players in each outing.
Ball's younger brothers, senior forward Li’Angelo Ball and sophomore point guard La’Melo Ball, shot a combined 9-from-27 from the field in the first half -- and Chino Hills still led 36-31. The difference in the outcome of games such as tonight's is the Huskies get a much higher percentage of offensive rebounds of its own missed shots than most high school teams -- and shoot a higher volume of shots from the field.
La'Melo Ball kept firing shots in the second half and finished 8-of-33 from field with 21 points and 12 assists, but his impact was indelible. He was consistently getting in the paint, creating for others and wearing out Mater Dei (11-1) defenders with his constant motion. Li'Angelo Ball cut back on the shot attempts in the second half, but contributed some big-time offensive rebounds and assists. Gelo Ball finished 10-of-23 from the field for 25 points to go along with eight rebounds.
Gelo Ball was named co-MVP of the event with LMU-bound Eli Scott, who missed his first shot from the field, but did not miss any of the five he took from close range thereafter -- two in the first half and two in the second half. Scott's big contributions in this tournament was his rebounding and physicality -- and mental approach. Scott finished with 10 points and 15 rebounds.
"We wanted to come in and play with the same energy we did the last time we played them because we knew they'd come with a vengence," Scott said.
Mater Dei lost by 48 points in last year's meeting and proved it could play with this year's Huskies team and potentially upset them. It's No. 18 FAB 50 ranking was more than justified, but No. 10 Chino Hills was just a bit better on this night. Mater Dei trailed 58-52 with just under eight minutes remaining, but Phaquan Davis, a 5-foot-10 sophomore and Chino Hill's fifth starter, hit two big 3-pointers late to fend of the Monarchs' charge. One of them gave Chino Hills (11-0) a 66-54 lead with six minutes remaining and forty seconds later, he hit another to give the Huskies a 69-58 advantage. Davis hit three 3-pointers in the second half and four in the game to finish with 12 points.
"I want to do whatever thing is needed to win," Davis. "Whether it's rebounding or shooting. I don't care about the numbers."
The main number for Chino Hills is now 46 consecutive victories, which is the cutoff number for entry into the Cal-Hi Sports State Record book. The Huskies will also be prohibitive favorites to capture the Rancho Mirage Holiday Invitational, an after Christmas event it captured last season on its way to the mythical FAB 50 national title.
Mater Dei, which was led by Justice Sueing with 27 points and 11 rebounds, could potentially face this Chino Hills team once again in the CIF Southern Section playoffs. FAB 50 No. 5 Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.), which just knocked off preseason FAB 50 No. 1 Oak Hill Academy, also looms in the post-season for both of these teams, as well as FAB 50 No. 9 Bishop Montgomery (Torrance, Calif.).
While Chino Hills may not be quite as dominant as last year's FAB 50 No. 1 club, it is proving it can win in a variety of different ways, and no team has quite figured out that formula yet.