It's the year of the guard in high school basketball, and Wednesday night's double-overtime thriller between Fairfax and Eastvale Roosevelt on the opening night of the state playoffs only validated the quality and quantity of the guard play in Southern California this season.
Freshman Ethan Anderson and sophomore Jamal Hartwell kept making tough shots for Fairfax. Junior Jemarl Baker of Roosevelt, who has committed to California, answered again and again.
Finally, in the second overtime, Anderson made a shot inside the key under heavy pressure with 12 seconds left for a one-point Fairfax lead. Baker got the ball on the inbound pass, dribbled the length of the court and somehow banked in a shot over the outstretched arm of 6-foot-7 Babacar Thiombane to give Roosevelt a 56-55 victory in the opening round of the Division I Southern California Regionals at Fairfax.
“I just wanted to redeem myself,” said Baker, who missed a potential game-winning shot in the Southern Section playoffs against Redondo. “I just had to win it. I didn't want to let my teammates down.”
Said Coach Stephen Singleton: “I always trust him when he has the ball in his hands. He wanted the ball and made it happen at the end.
“He didn't shoot well tonight, but he's a guy who always trusts himself and believes in himself and so do I. He made it happen.”
Baker finished with 16 points, the same as junior forward Matt Mitchell. Anderson, who has been coming on strong in the last month of the season, scored 18 points. Hartwell had 16 points, including a four-point play in the first overtime.
Baker, Anderson and Hartwell are part of a glittering guard group led by Chino Hills' McDonald's All-American, Lonzo Ball. It would be easy to pick a 10-man all-star team made up solely of guards.
Another dramatic ending happened at La Verne Damien, where Lake Balboa Birmingham upset Damien, 81-78, in overtime. Devonte Doutrive made a three-point play at the end of regulation and finished with 23 points for Birmingham. Bryce Peters scored 30 points for Damien.
San Diego St. Augustine knocked off Corona
Centennial, 60-59, and will play Roosevelt on Saturday night.
Martin Tombe scored 27 points for St. Augustine.