LOS ANGELES -- This time around, the hype actually lived up to all of the advanced billing. And then some.
With five Southland boys' basketball programs ranked in the ESPNLosAngeles.com top 20 scheduled to compete in the Fairfax State Preview Classic, it appeared as if the spectators in attendance at Fairfax High on Saturday were bound to get their money's worth with plenty of fast-paced action. Turns out, no one walked away disappointed.
Etiwanda and Los Angeles Loyola, ranked No. 2 and No. 11, respectively, was the marquee matchup of the day-long event. Those who stayed around for the nightcap, no doubt, were treated to a rather entertaining affair as the underdog Cubs battled back from numerous deficits to pull off a surprising 70-64 upset over the Eagles.
“Etiwanda is tough team, we knew that coming in, that's one of the best programs in the state,'' Cubs coach Jamal Adams said. “The best part about a showcase like this is that our team gets to come out and see how we measure up against the best around. We were tickled to be a part of something like this. It was exciting for us and the fans.''
Etiwanda's Byron Wesley was the story early on.
The 6-foot-5 senior, a USC commit, scored nine points in the early going and Etiwanda (23-0 overall) took a five-point lead at the end of one quarter. All told, Wesley had 17 points in the first half to help extend the advantage to eight at halftime.
It was more of the same after the break. Wesley had 26 points at the end of the three, and accordingly, the Eagles had a 57-49 lead.
“We knew that we were going to play in front of a big crowd, a packed house, and we wanted to show we're the real deal,'' Wesley said.
The Cubs (16-6) countered with Julian Harrell and Parker Jackson-Cartwright, among others. The Cubs cut the deficit to 63-62 with less than a minute left after a pair of Harrell free-throws. Steady from the line thereafter, Loyola prevailed.
Wesley finished with 30 points.
Best of the Rest
When it comes to underclassman with loads and loads of upside, seemingly no one has as much Zena Edosomwan. The 6-8 junior center from No. 8. North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake proved to be an emerging force once again in an afternoon game, scoring 35 points to go along with 11 rebounds in a 80-60 victory over Santa Monica.
With the victory over the Vikings (8-14), Edosomwan and the rest of the Wolverines (20-2) figure to move up in the rankings next week.
Not to be outdone, Norvel Pelle put in his share of work for No. 14 Los Angeles Price in the following game. That is, the 6-9 standout senior put in his share of work in the second half against an undersized group from Mission Hills Alemany.
Pelle arrived late for the game because of traffic. Once there, the St. John's-bound center made up for lost time, scoring 20 points over the course of a 16-minute stretch in a 66-61 victory for the Knights (16-5). Alemany dropped to 16-8.
NBA veteran Steve Kerr was on hand to see his his son, Nick, and San Diego Torrey Pines take on Los Angeles Windward. However, Wesley Saunders & Co. spoiled the visit. The Wildcats, ranked No.17, built what appeared to be a comfortable lead and managed to hold on down the stretch to secure a 73-71 victory over the Falcons (16-5).
Torrey Pines had no answer for Saunders, who is heading to Harvard. He scored seemingly at will and finished with 26 points for Windward (15-6).
“What a long day, but it was all well worth it,'' said Fairfax coach Harvey Kitani, whose team lost to Gardena Serra, 61-49. “We think the Fairfax State Preview Classic can be big. We're looking forward to doing it all over again next year.''
Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.