Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Loyola, Sierra Canyon rally for victory

LOS ANGELES -- The CIF playoffs continued on Saturday in the Los Angeles area. Rivals.com was able to watch as home standing Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola and Chatsworth (Calif.) Sierra Canyon advanced to the state quarterfinals with dramatic come-from-behind wins.
Thomas Welsh dominated the interior with his passing and rebounding.
The day started at Loyola where the Cubs hosted Mission Viejo (Calif.) High in a Division 1 round of 16 game. Led by McDonald's All-American and UCLA bound big man Thomas Welsh and 2015 Rivals150 combo guard Max Hazzard, Loyola is still in the process of adjusting to life without four-star senior point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright who was dismissed from the school early this season. Making the trip up to L.A. from Orange County, Mission Viejo brought a scrappy and quick squad led by one of the class of 2014's biggest recruiting steals, Boise State bound small forward Chandler Hutchison. For most of the game, Loyola was in serious trouble. Hutchison was a little off with his shooting and not having one of his best games, but the 6-foot-6 wing was very active on the glass and in transition and got a lot of help from his teammates. Heading into the fourth quarter, Mission Viejo had built up a 49-35 lead and looked like it would be advancing. The fourth quarter, though, was a much different story. Loyola dug in defensively and caused the Mission Viejo offense to sputter. As had happened throughout the game, any possession that featured a touch by the near seven-foot Welsh in the post resulted in a great Loyola shot. Welsh finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds, but his biggest contribution may have been his outstanding passing out of double teams. Even when he didn't make a pass that led directly to a basket, he would put the defense into a scramble mode where the next pass resulted in a good shot. The person benefiting and stepping up the most because of this was Hazzard. After playing most of the season off the ball next to Jackson-Cartwright, he has taken over point guard duties and spent most of the first three quarters setting up teammates. During the fourth quarter he took on a bigger role as a scorer, hit four threes and scored 16 of his 24 points. His final two were the most important. Trailing by one with just 10.7 seconds to go, Loyola needed to go the length of the court and score. On top of that, Mission Viejo had only given two fouls and was in position to foul out the clock. After a couple of fouls, Hazzard somehow eluded two defenders trying to foul him at half court and made it all the way to the rim where he was fouled on a shot with 3.1 seconds left. Hazzard calmly sank both free throws in front of coaches from Boise State, Pepperdine, UC Davis, San Diego and Santa Clara to give Loyola the improbable 60-59 win. Immediately after the game, we were able to make our way up to Chatsworth as Sierra Canyon hosted San Juan Capistrano (Calif.) J'Serra in a Division IV round of 16 game.
Cody Riley's only bucket of the second half was important.
Sierra Canyon boasts one of the youngest, but talented, rosters of any high level team in the country. Sophomore point guard Devearl Ramsey is a four-star prospect while freshmen Cody Riley and Ira Lee both look like they will be high major prospects. Just like Loyola in the previous game, the home standing Trailblazers really struggled early. While they played with max effort, they missed several early free throws and one layup after another. Led by Northwestern commitment Johnnie Vassar who scored a game high 20 points and sophomore big man Jayce Johnson's work on the glass, J'Serra was able to build a 30-21 halftime lead. During the third quarter, Sierra Canyon turned up the pressure and made a serious comeback. While its young stars struggled, senior guard Jamani Spencer was huge, scoring many of his team-high 15 points. While Canyon pressed on one end forcing J'Serra into one turnover or bad shot after another, they attacked the rim relentlessly on the other end and converted enough to take a 42-39 lead headed into the fourth. In the fourth, Vassar tried to put J'Serra on his back and will them to victory. The sub six-footer is a big time athlete with extreme speed and plays a hair on fire style. While a bit out of control, he was getting to the rim and making things happen and even allowed J'Serra to build a six-point lead with just over five minutes to go. Then, after scuffling to get going for much of the game, Sierra Canyon's young stars made plays that mattered. An intense competitor with quickness, Ramsey got to the rim and made big free throws while the 6-foot-7 Riley delivered the biggest shot of the game. Scoreless and on the bench for much of the second half, Riley hit a twisting bucket on the right side with just over a minute to go to take a 57-56 lead. Ramsey finished things out by sinking four straight free-throws in front of coaches from Portland and Pacific to complete Sierra Canyon's 61-56 comeback win.

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