ANAHEIM -- Make it four straight playoff wins for Long Beach Poly over familiar foe Etiwanda.
Defending CIF-Southern Section Division 1AA boys' basketball champion Long Beach Poly advanced to the title game once again Tuesday night, earning a semifinal victory over third-seeded Etiwanda, 56-47, at the Anaheim Convention Center Arena. After experiencing recent success against the Inland Empire power, Poly coach Sharrief Metoyer used a proven blueprint: Size.
"Another dogfight with Etiwanda," Metoyer said. "I think it was everything that everybody thought it would be. We played tough. Our goal was to dominate the paint."
The second-seeded Jackrabbits (27-1) did exactly that, holding a 43-23 rebounding edge behind the interior play of juniors Roschon Prince and Jordan Bell. Prince had 22 points and 10 boards; Bell had nine points, 12 boards and seven blocks.
Prince, coming off a career-high 40 points in the quarterfinals, was nearly uncontainable on drives to the basket and made 14 of 19 free throws, including 11 of 14 in the fourth quarter. Bell, meanwhile, made his presence felt on defense. His monstrous block on Jordan McLaughlin with just under two minutes left changed the momentum. Etiwanda could have pulled to within two but, instead, the Jackrabbits got two points at the other end and pulled away.
"It's a nice luxury when you've got a guy who can get off the floor and block shots," Metoyer said.
It was yet another stinging loss for Etiwanda (29-2), which was eliminated from postseason play by Poly twice last year and in the state tournament in 2010.
"I have a lot of respect for them," Etiwanda coach Dave Kleckner said. "We don't have the kind of horses they've got. We're quick enough but not quite there on a size standpoint. We know that to win a championship you're got to go through Mater Dei and Long Beach Poly. We know that and we like the challenge."
Poly held a 24-19 lead at halftime despite the fact that only one player, senior wing Joshua Munzon, scored in the second quarter. Munzon's 3-pointer with two and a half minutes left made it a nine-point game but the Eagles closed strong. With Poly capitalizing on second-chance opportunities, the lead ballooned back to nine late in the third quarter. Etiwanda made a run, though, to close to within two in the fourth.
After a slow start, McLaughlin scored 10 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter.
"Hopefully we play them again [in the Southern California regionals] and get revenge," McLaughlin said.
Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPN Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter.