Division II champs Lemoore will host Long Beach Poly in first round state playoffs

Updated 8 years ago By Ed Martin, Editor
Lemoore won the Central Section Division II basketball title Friday night, beating Ridgeview 84-77.
Lemoore won the Central Section Division II basketball title Friday night, beating Ridgeview 84-77.
Photo by Bill Burris, Lemooresports.com

Lemoore will host a first-round game in the California State Division II Basketball Championships Wednesday, at 7 p.m. in the high school’s Event Center. The Tigers earned the home game thanks to their impressive 84-77 win over Ridgeview High School Friday in Fresno’s Selland Arena.

Lemoore, the No. 7 seed, will face the Jackrabbits of Long Beach Poly, a perennial powerhouse that shared the Moore League title with Compton High School. Poly, coached by Shelton Diggs, finished 20-10 overall and lost in the Southern Section finals to JW North 61-58, thus earning a trip to Lemoore.

State Division II playoff brackets

State Playoffs Schedule

Just a year ago Long Beach Poly won the Moore league with an overall mark of 26-5 and a league record 12-0. The Jackrabbits finished the year ranked as the 59th best team in America according to Maxx Preps. They played two games into the state championships before losing 54-49 in the second round.

Assuming Lemoore beats Long Beach Poly, it will play the winner of the No. 15 El Camino Real and No. 2 Cantwell-Sacred Heart game.

The Southern Regional Finals will be held at California State Long Beach’s Pyramid Arena on March 19. The State Finals will be played in Sacramento’s Sleep Train Arena March 24-26. The Division II game will be held Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m.

Central Section Division II Championship

Perhaps it was a positive omen of things to come that fateful Fresno Friday night when a torrential downpour greeted the Valley just minutes before Lemoore’s West Yosemite League champions took to the hardwood of Selland Arena in their quest for excellence − a Central Section basketball championship − and a trophy the defenders of the Tiger faithful hadn’t seen in more than two decades.

Matt Barba scored 9 points in Friday night's Central Section Division II championship game.
Matt Barba scored 9 points in Friday night's Central Section Division II championship game.
Photo by Bill Burris, Lemooresports.com

When it was all over the storm had receded, the brilliant lightening that lit up the Fresno skyline disappeared, and the Lemoore’s Tigers had what they had come for, that coveted championship, the thing every great team seeks.

The Lemoore High School varsity boys’ basketball team won its first Central Section title since 1992 with a convincing 84-77 victory over powerful Ridgeview High in the Division II Central Section title game Friday night in Fresno’s Selland Arena.

“I’m so excited and happy to win a valley championship,” said game MVP Allen Perryman. “It’s the first championship I’ve ever won… it’s a good win, it’s a great atmosphere and I’m just happy for my teammates.”

Did the fact that Ridgeview, entering Friday’s game with a near perfect 28-1 record, seem at all intimidating to Perryman and his teammates? “No, it didn’t intimidate us,” he said, “because our team, we don’t get intimidated. Our goal was just to win the championship and that’s what we came to do.”

Spencer Stinger
Spencer Stinger
Photo by Bill Burris, Lemooresports.com

While Perryman did manage to score 16 points, the talented point guard did enough on the offensive and defensive side of the court to earn MVP honors after the game. His theatrics, not quite Stephon Curry-esque, but were still the sort of playmaking that forced the Tiger faithful to stand up and cheer. There was his contorted layup and foul early in the third quarter – a shot that seemed to defy gravity – but fell through the net anyway to give his team a 48-35 lead. Just seconds later he did it again. The shot didn’t go in, but he got two free throws out of it and Lemoore found itself up 50-35.

Obviously he didn’t do it all alone, far from it. The Tigers were led by Jaylunn English’s 23 points and 10 rebounds as well as the superb play of Matt Borba, Spencer Stinger, Reggie Davis, and Jerald Campbell, all of whom played as if they were on a mission to seek the Holy Grail of basketball.

English, the lanky senior center, who will be playing basketball again somewhere in college, was incredible, particularly in the first period, when he almost single-handedly dismantled the Wolf Pack with his magical display of outside shooting and inside hustle. English, when all was said and done, had 13 points in the quarter and Lemoore was up 22-11.

 As Perryman argued, the Tigers indeed were never intimidated. They led from start to finish but did have to withstand a fourth-quarter Ridgeview comeback, and still managed to humble the top-ranked Wolf Pack who went into Friday night’s game at Selland Arena as the favorite.

To be fair, the Wolf Pack was really no match for the talented Tigers, who used a combination of  board strength and timely shooting to completely overwhelm the No. 1 ranked Division II team.

The key shots came from everywhere, including a 3-pointer with just 1:35 left in the game from the always dependable Stinger, to outdistance Ridgeview, which just moments before had cut an 18-point third-quarter lead to just three at 73-70 at the 2:21 mark of the fourth quarter.

Then there was the always dependable Roger Wilson, who connected on a trio of three-point shots and finished with 17 points. Stinger had 11 points and Borba finished with 9.

The Tigers blamed themselves for allowing the Wolf Pack back into the game.  “I just knew that we were making simple mistakes,” said Perryman. “We were just throwing the ball away and making stupid turnovers, but we didn’t let that get in our heads; we knew that we still had this game in our hands. We had one goal and that was to win the valley championship.”

Which they did, thanks to Spencer’s key 3-pointer and a tenacious defense that held Ridgeview to a mere four points in the final two minutes. When it was all over Tiger Coach Joell Sligh was reflective.

“This is my first championship, high school, college or coaching,” he said. “It’s nice, and it’s a little bit of validation for all the years of playing the game and kind of wondering what you’re doing, and you know the championship is nice, but actually watching those guys celebrate and have fun was even nicer.

“My guys played as hard or harder than anybody else. I honestly don’t know what I’ve said to them or done to them but for whatever reason they go out there and play hard for me and I enjoy it. It’s just been a joy to play this entire season with them.”

Lemoore will most likely host a Southern California Regional game on Wednesday. The seeds will be announced Sunday. Ridgeview, thanks to its second-place finish, also earned a trip to the Regionals.


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