When they say extravaganza, they mean extravaganza.
There was plenty of hype surrounding Saturday's Nike Extravaganza, held over at Santa Ana Mater Dei High. And rightfully so, given the fact that several of the Southland's premier boys' basketball programs were in attendance and competing for regional bragging rights.
The event started bright and early in the morning, right around 8 a.m. Things didn't finish up until late in the evening, of course, just before 11 p.m. In between, you better believe the action was played at the highest of levels. It was non-stop, from beginning to end.
Suppose that best explains why the camera crews from ESPN2 were on hand for the showcase game, a match-up featuring Las Vegas (NV) Bishop Gorman and Long Beach Poly, which has been ranked No. 1 in the ESPNLosAngeles.com top 20 poll all season long.
Turns out, the visitors from the nearby desert were too much, particularly Shabazz Muhammad. At times, the talented junior scored seemingly at will and he finished with 31 points in a 58-53 victory over the Jackrabbits, who lost for the first time in 23 games thus far.
With a five-point lead at the outset of the fourth quarter, things appeared to be heading in the right direction for Long Beach Poly (22-1). However, Ryan Anderson, Alexis Moore and Roschon Prince, among others, struggled during the final eight minutes of play.
Muhammad, of course, preserved the victory, making four straight free-throws in the final minute of the game. Spectators should not be overly surprised that he played extremely well for the Gaels (20-6) considering the small forward is ESPNU's top-ranked player at his position for the 2012 class, and No. 5 prospect overall.
Muhammad has offers from Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and UCLA.
Moore scored 12 points in the loss. Anderson added 11 points.
In the nightcap, Mater Dei jumped out to an early lead in the first half behind the play of Xavier Johnson and Kaitin Reinhardt. Accordingly, the impressive junior tandem helped the Monrachs maintain the momentum the rest of the way en route to a 67-65 victory over Los Angeles Price.
Reinhardt had 13 points in the first quarter and Johnson added 10 to give Mater Dei (23-2), ranked No. 2 by ESPNLA, a 25-12 lead by the time the second quarter rolled around.
Askia Booker scored 12 first half points. More importanly, he keyed a 19-0 run for the Knights (16-6), ranked No. 13 by ESPNLA, to cut the deficit to five points at the break.
Knight had no absolutely answer for the determined Johnson late. He put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter, and when all was said and done, finished with 25 points.
Reinhardt had 22 points, as did Booker.
Spencer Dinwiddie took over down the stretch for Woodland Hills Taft against Concord De La Salle and his timing could not have been much better. The senior scored 12 consecutive points at the end of regulation and during overtime in a 49-42 overtime victory.
The Spartans (18-4) did the right thing by attempting to deploy a deliberate style of play to slow down the fast-paced Toreadors (21-2), ranked No. 4 by ESPNLA.
The strategy, unfortunately, only worked for so long.
Once Didwiddie got hot, his teammates followed suit, most notably C.J. Blackwell. The senior scored 16 points and Dinwiddie ended up with 16 points as well.
Overtime also decided the outcome of a showdown pitting a pair of programs ranked in the ESPNLA top 10 as Orange Lutheran defeated Los Angeles Westchester, 66-63. Gabe York and James Douglas combined for 52 points for the No. 10 Lancers (19-6).
Robert Gsellman finished with 14 points, but his efforts came up short. And as a result, the Comets (20-6) figure to drop from their No. 6 spot in the rankings.
What in the world is going on with Los Angeles Fairfax? The perennial City Section powerhouse lost again, this time to Rialto Eisenhower, 53-39. Now, all of a sudden, it appears as if the Lions (14-10) are in trouble, with their postseason aspirations in jeopardy.
With numerous high-profile teams commanding the spotlight over the course of the day, it would have been easy to overlook the recent accomplishments of Upland. At some point, the Highlanders (16-9) need to be acknowledged, so there's no better time than now.
Senior John Gilliamscored a game-high 21 points to guide Upland to a 58-50 victory over San Juan Capistrano JSerra in the morning session on Saturday. The win comes on the heels of the Highlanders' 69-65 upset Friday over Etiwanda, ranked No. 6 by ESPNLA.
Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.