Inland Empire: SoCal Regional Finalist, Summit

ESPNLA is taking a closer look this week at the Inland Empire basketball teams that qualified for the Southern California Regional championship games Saturday at USC's Galen Center. Today, the spotlight is on the Summit boys' basketball team, which plays San Diego Lincoln in the Division 2 final at 4 p.m.

SUMMIT (27-7)

Location: Fontana.

League: Sunkist.

Resume: An extra-long football season took a bit of a toll on the SkyHawks early on, as standout point guard Montigo Alford was a running back for the Eastern Division finalists. They’re rolling on all cylinders heading into the program's first regional final, however. Summit cut its teeth during the regular season with two games against Etiwanda and another against Corona Centennial, the top two programs in the I.E. The SkyHawks then cruised through Sunkist League play without much competition before they were seeded sixth in the Division 2AA playoffs. They proved good enough to advance to the semifinals before losing to second-seeded Mission Viejo, 73-69. The SkyHawks found their footing with an overtime victory against Harbor City Narbonne in the opening round of the regionals, then traveled to second-seeded Ventura and won, 66-45. Thanks to Santa Ana Foothill’s first-round upset of Mission Viejo, the 10th-seeded SkyHawks did not have to go through the Diablos to reach the final, but rather Palos Verdes Peninsula. Summit battled back from an eight-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter Saturday and beat the visiting Panthers, 79-74.

Roster: Alford was the player everyone was waiting on heading into the season but 6-7 power forward Dorian Cason has been carrying Summit from the start. Cason has consistently scored in double digits and provided mismatches with his long, athletic frame. If high school basketball players had to wait until after their senior seasons to sign letters of intent--like football players do--Cason probably would have received more options. Instead, he signed with Portland, which got a steal. Summit also features junior guard Devon Alexander, who scored all 17 of his points in the second half against Peninsula, including two big 3-point baskets in the final two minutes. Two other junior guards, Isaiah Taylor and Darrick Arnold, and senior wing Cameron Lewis, are key contributors.

Reality: A year ago, Summit’s season came crashing to an end against Lincoln in a regional quarterfinal. The SkyHawks held a one-point lead with under two minutes remaining but Lincoln scored the final six points and won, 72-67. That should either serve to motivate Summit, or intimidate the SkyHawks, since Lincoln is even stronger this season. The Hornets have lost just one game and that came against Long Beach Poly, ranked No. 1 in the state heading into its upset loss Saturday against Mater Dei in a Division 1 regional semifinal. Again leading the way for Lincoln is Norman Powell, a 6-4 senior shooting guard who signed with UCLA. He’s averaging 20.4 points after putting up 19.7 as a junior. The SkyHawks also need to keep tabs on 6-4 sophomore twins Tyree and Tyrell Robinson, who could spend time guarding Cason.

Prediction: Lincoln 80, Summit 71.