Here are final day notes from the 22nd Annual Torrey Pines Holiday Classic in San Diego, Calif., Dec. 27-30.
SAN DIEGO -- Few boys' basketball programs in the country have as storied a tradition as DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.).
They were the first program, beginning in the late 1960's and 1970's, to travel nationally around the country in search of the best competition and have maintained a high level of excellence ever since.
All that meant little to Windward (Los Angeles), which was trying to complete a trifecta of victories over highly-regarded opponents in the National Division at the 22nd Annual Torrey Pines Holiday Classic. In the past 10 months, the Wildcats have proven they can compete at the national level, beginning in March with a victory over POWERADE FAB 50-ranked Salesian (Richmond, Calif.) in California's Div. IV state title game and again two nights ago with an upset of No. 16 Mitty (San Jose, Calif.).
Windward looked to take the next step and beat a mythical national title contender, but DeMathat's full court press and the frontcourt play of Jerami Grant and BeeJay Anya proved a bit too much to handle as No. 10 DeMatha recorded a 74-64 victory in the National Division championship game.
"Their length and size affected us down low," said Windward junior point guard and all-tournament selection Jordan Wilson, who finished with 13 points. "They are a good team. They are highly-ranked and deserving."
DeMatha coach Mike Jones, a former standout player at the school under Naismith Hall of Fame coach Morgan Wootten, scouted Windward's tendency to struggle against a full court press. He implemented one at beginning of the game and DeMatha forced turnovers which led to easy buckets and a 21-14 lead at the end of the first quarter.
"Yes, we definitely wanted to press them, but only for a change of phase," Jones said. "We didn't want to do much of it. They are well-coached and well-coached teams make adjustments, so we didn't want to make it too obvious."
Windward (8-5) adjusted and when Wilson hit a 3-pointer midway through the second quarter, they we're within two points (21-19), but could get no closer. DeMatha (10-0) extended its lead to 36-27 at halftime behind the beautiful baseline work of Grant and timely outside shooting of Pittsburgh recruit James Robinson.
"It was them converting off of turnovers and their outside shooting that killed us," Windward coach Miguel Villegas said. "We weren't worried about the big guy [Anya]. He was going to get his and scored mostly on sloppy stuff in the second half. It was the outside shooting; in the first half they hit I think five threes."
After intermission, Windward handled DeMatha's pressure defense better and leading scorer Nick Stover (18 points) began converting in transition. Every time the Wildcats looked to cut their deficit under eight points, however, DeMatha answered with a mini-run.
The Stags led 56-42 after three quarters and grew their lead to as much as 18 points, but Windward matched DeMatha's intensity over the final three quarters and did not allow the Maryland powerhouse to pull away.
Anya finished with 13 points and controlled the glass and swatted away a few drives by Wilson and shots underneath by Windward freshmen Roy Hensley and Mason Shepard. Grant, who finished with 12 points, was named National Division MVP.
"No. 25 [Grant] was the key," Villegas said. "We didn't have an answer for him and couldn't stop him."
DeMatha focused for FAB 50 title hunt
With its victory at the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic, combined with FAB 50 No. 3 Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), No. 4 Marcus Flower Mound (Marcus, Texas) and No. 5 Prestonwood Christian Academy (Plano, Texas) all losing this week, DeMatha secured a top seven ranking in 2012's first set of national rankings next week.
DeMatha now return to the East Coast. They begin play in the rugged Washington Catholic Athletic Conference on Tuesday and will have major tests for five weeks thereafter.
The Stags face No. 22 Neumann-Goretti (Philadelphia) on Jan. 7 in Wheeling, W. Va., play No. 17 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) Jan. 16 on ESPNU in Springfield, Mass., and face Gonzaga Prep (Washington, D.C.) Feb. 10 in another nationally-televised matchup.
Newark Memorial takes third place
In the National Division third place game, Newark Memorial did exactly what its game plan called for in the first half, holding high-powered Taft (Woodland Hills, Calif.) to 27 points. Problem was, the Cougars had a lid on their own basket, scoring only 14 points.
Newark Memorial exploded for 20 third quarter points to propel its 55-49 victory over the Toreadors.
The comeback was completed when senior guard Casey Norris hit two free throws to give the Cougars a 47-45 lead with 2:05 remaining in the fourth quarter. Norris, a 6-foot-2 inch senior, then iced the game with an NBA range 3-pointer that give Newark Memorial (7-4) a 50-47 lead it would not relinquish.
"We just weren't being very tough," said Newark Memorial coach Craig Ashmore. "In the second half, we just relaxed a bit more, moved the ball better and made some shots."
Ashmore is known as a tough customer on the sidelines, but he had nothing but praise for Norris, who finished with a game-high 23 points.
"He's a gritty, seasoned, four-year guy. He carried us for a while when we weren't finishing as we should have been. I'm very proud of him."
Norris made the all-tournament team, as did Anthony "Dinnertime" January, who finished with a game-high 21 points for Taft (10-3).
American Division Championship:
La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.) 60, Righetti (Santa Maria, Calif.) 52
The Mavericks held Righetti to three field goals in the fourth quarter to break a 46-46 stalemate through the first 24 minutes and capture the tournament's American Division title.
It was La Costa Canyon's second victory over snake-bitten Righetti this season. The Mavericks defeated Righetti 62-52 at the Mission Prep Holiday Tournament in San Luis Obispo, Calif., on Dec. 17.
"We knew they were going to come out and compete because they wanted their revenge," said American Division MVP Matt Shrigley, who along with all-tournament selection David Travers scored a team-high 16 points. "I think the key to our win was limiting their second chances and picking up the defensive intensity in the second half."
Righetti (10-2) led 19-15 after a quarter as forward Chris Walker scored 12 points. Walker then nailed a NBA-range 3-pointer near the end of the first half, propelling the Warriors to a 31-26 halftime lead with 18 points.
La Costa Canyon (14-1) opened the third quarter with a 14-2 run to take control of the game. Walker did not score in the second half.
This was the third consecutive season La Costa Canyon played in the American Division title game. In last year’s title game, La Costa Canyon lost 56-53 to El Camino (Oceanside, Calif.). In 2010, the Mavericks defeated Los Osos (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.), 50-48.
Torrey Pines Holiday Classic All-Tournament Team
BeeJay Anya, DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.) 6-9 C Sr.
Dakari Allen, Sheldon (Sacramento, Calif.) 6-6 F Jr.
Garret Galvin, Torrey Pines (San Diego) 6-4 G Sr.
Aaron Gordon, Mitty (San Jose, Calif.) 6-9 F Jr.
Jerami Grant, DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.) 6-8 F Sr.*
Anthony "Dinnertime" January, Taft (Woodland Hills, Calif.) 6-7 F Sr.
Grant Jerrett, La Verne Lutheran (La Verne, Calif.) 6-9 C Sr.
Darien Nelson-Henry, Lake Washington (Kirkland, Wash.) 6-10 C Sr.
Casey Norris, Newark Memorial (Newark, Calif.) 6-2 G Sr.
Brandon Randolph, St. Bernard (Playa del Rey, Calif.) 6-3 G Jr.
Christian Sanders, Houston St. Thomas (Houston) 6-4 G Sr.
Matt Shrigley, La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.) 6-6 F Sr.**
Nick Stover, Windward (Los Angeles) 6-7 F Sr.
David Travers, La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.) 6-1 G Sr.
Hunter Walker, Righetti (Santa Maria, Calif.) 6-5 F Sr.
Jordan Wilson, Windward (Los Angeles) 5-9 G Jr.
Dion Wright, Mayfair (Lakewood, Calif.) 6-7 F Sr.
*National Division MVP
**American Division MVP