Lonzo Ball is perhaps the nation’s most exciting player and his youngest brother La’Melo is a showman — flashy with his play and style. Like many middle brothers, Li’Angelo can often be overlooked, especially with his serious demeanor and workmanlike approach to the game. It doesn’t take long for Chino Hills’ opponents to find out what “Gelo” is capable of. The high-scoring forward put his stamp on Chino Hill’s semifinal victory of the open division of the Maxpreps Holiday Classic.
With his recent performances during holiday tournaments, Lonzo Ball is showing the country his game is something seen perhaps once in a decade. His Chino Hills (Calif.) team is trying to stay on course for a mythical national title, but in order to do that it will take a total team effort.
While Li’Angelo Ball, a 6-foot-5 junior for the Huskies, is not quite as talented as his older brother and not quite as flamboyant as his 14-year old freshman brother La’Melo Ball, he’s just as important to the team’s fortunes with his scoring instincts around the basket and his relentless outside shooting.
His full arsenal was on display in Chino Hills’ 124-83 victory over a talented Jonesboro (Ga.) that put the Huskies in Wednesday evening’s 9:10 pm open division title game versus Redondo Union (Redondo Beach, Calif.). Even when Gelo Ball is not on target from deep range, he doesn’t lose confidence and will continue to fire, sometimes from as deep as 40 feet in a half court setting, until it starts to drop. Case in point against Jonesboro in Tuesday evening. He was 6-of-22 from the field in the first half, but Gelo kept firing away and helped Chino Hills put the game away in the third period despite the Huskies’ major foul trouble.
“Gelo” finished with 41 points, including 4-of-10 from 3-point range, and added five rebounds and three assists. His numbers don’t tell the complete story, as his physical play around the basket and innate ability to be in the correct position for one of Lonzo’s serpentine passes has demoralized teams this season. The 70 and 80-foot passes Zo completes to his brother, sometimes even from a post up position, leaves fans in amazement and media and scouts shaking their heads.
“Everyone wants to get out best player in foul trouble,” Li’Angelo Ball said about his older brother Lonzo. “Being the middle brother, I just play my game while they do their thing. Leading this team in scoring, that’s what I know I can do.”
There was a standing-room only crowd at Rancho Mirage High School, as fans in the Coachella Valley and surrounding Inland Empire communities realize this Chino Hills outfit is something special. In fact, there was a turn away crowd in Monday’s quarterfinals, as hundreds of rain-soaked fans were stopped at the door by the fire marshal.
Nobody has been able to stop “Run GMZ” (Gelo, Melo, Zo) and Jonesboro didn’t necessarily try to stop them, the Cardinals tried to run with them. It worked for one half, but a 35-21 Chino Hills advantage in the third period was basically the difference. Making Chino Hill’s third quarter onslaught even more impressive was Lonzo Ball’s major foul trouble. The UCLA recruit and Mr. Basketball USA candidate picked up three quick offensive foul calls early in the game. Chino Hills coach Steve Baik chose to momentarily sit his star point guard and eventually returned him to the game, only to see Zo pick up his fourth offensive foul call with 2:15 remaining in the second quarter. The 6-foot-5 point guard picked up his third with 5:03 remaining before halftime.
Lonzo Ball finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds, seen assists and three steals. Junior forward Eli Scott added 18 points and five rebounds for Chino Hills (12-0).
M.J. Walker, who has been stellar through three games at the event, led Jonesboro (9-3) with 30 points. He’s impressed McDonald’s All-American voter Frank Burlison and other media scribes on press row with his scoring ability, deep range shooting and athleticism. Eric Lovett, a 5-foot-11 senior shooting guard, kept Jonesboro in the game early with his long-range shooting. He had four 3-pointers in the first period and five for the game, finishing with 23 points. The Cardinals trailed 28-26 at the end of the first period.
It’s going to take a herculean effort for Redondo Union to take down Chino Hills in Wednesday night’s championship game. The Sea Hawks extracted a bit of revenge against Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.), defeating the Gaels 77-69 after losing to the same club by five points in the quarterfinals of the Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas.
Redondo Union (10-2) was in control throughout and led by as much as 22 points before Bishop Gorman (9-3) made a fourth quarter rally behind the shooting of junior wing Charles O’Bannon Jr. The 6-foot-6 junior scored 18 points in the final period and helped the Gaels get within three points in the closing minutes. Gorman even had a chance to tie the game on a possession with one and a half minutes remaining, but Redondo’s Morgan Means came up with a clutch steal and was fouled on the other end.
Means, a 6-foot-1 unsigned senior, finished with a team-high 26 points, five assists, seven rebounds and three steals. Ryse Williams, a 6-foot-2 junior, added 23 points for coach Reggie Morris Jr.’s club.
O’Bannon finished with 37 points.
Gorman’s loss to Redondo means all four participants in the title games of the main divisions of the Maxpreps Holiday Classic and UA Holiday Classic in San Diego, Calif. are SoCal clubs.
Down at Torrey Pines High School on Wednesday night, Fairfax (Los Angeles) will square off with Centennial (Corona, Calif.) in the national division final.
Fairfax downed Army-Navy Academy (Carlsbad, Calif.) in its semifinal contest, 49-42, while Centennial avenged an earlier loss to FAB 50-ranked Foothills Christian (El Cajon, Calif.) with a resounding 67-52 win. Centennial advanced in this tournament without the services of UCLA-bound center Ike Anigbogu, who is not available because of a death in his family.
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