LA South and Inland Empire: Poly-Etiwanda friendships add intrigue

Alexis Moore had a feeling this would happen, so he didn't boast when Long Beach Poly eliminated Etiwanda from the CIF-Southern Section Division 1AA boys' basketball playoffs last week.

It's a good thing he didn't say much -- top-seeded Poly (30-1) and Etiwanda (29-3) meet again Thursday at Long Beach City College, with a spot in the third round of the CIF State Division 1 playoffs up for grabs. The opening tip is scheduled for 7 p.m.

There's a complicated dynamic to this rivalry.

Moore will play alongside Etiwanda star Byron Wesley at USC next season. Poly's top prospect, forward Ryan Anderson, will team up with Etiwanda's point guard, Jordan Daniels, at Boston College.

The future teammates figure to put their friendships on hold for one night.

If Poly beats Etiwanda for the second time in two weeks, Moore and Anderson will be doing the talking on their campuses this fall. If No. 9-seeded Etiwanda pulls off the upset, Wesley and Daniels will have the last laugh.

Five things to watch:

1. Learn from the past: Etiwanda ousted Poly from the sectional semifinals last year, but fell to them in the regional playoffs. Now the Eagles have an opportunity -- and the recent game film -- to return the favor. Poly led by only four points with a minute left last week at Anaheim Arena. The game featured 10 ties and four lead changes.

2. Defense is the best offense: Wesley, a versatile wing player, had 18 points the last time these teams met, but only four came in the fourth quarter. Poly's Roschon Prince, one of the state's premier sophomore prospects, contained Wesley and came up with a huge steal to clinch it. "Defense is definitely Poly basketball at its finest," Anderson said. "That's what we pride ourselves on. We work on it every single day for almost the entire practice. Poly basketball is defense."

3. Staying on point: The Eagles had success when Daniels got to the basket, so you can bet Poly is intent on stopping his penetration. The speedy point guard cracked Poly's smothering zone last time out and, defensively, might be the only player quick enough to stay in front of Moore. Daniels had 12 points last week and might have to be better from the perimeter.

4. "The bigger they are...": No one has been able to stop Anderson inside. Not Centennial in the CIF-SS Division 1AA championship, not Palisades in the first round Tuesday. He's as big and as skilled as they come in the high school game. The Eagles must keep him off the glass and off the free-throw line.

5. Our depth is deeper than your depth: Wesley, Anderson, Moore, Prince and Daniels figure to get theirs. That's what top players do in top moments. The difference could come from a group of role players that includes Alex Carmon (Poly) and Troy Fiawoo (Etiwanda).