Word of the considerable exploits of Carl Ray Harris spread as far south as Whittier Christian High School in La Habra this week.
The Heralds knew of his array of dunks and other crowd-pleasing moves to the basket.
What they learned to their dismay was that Harris, a 6-foot-2 guard for Washington High of Easton, Calif., is not limited to acrobatic moves. He also has a soft touch from the outside.
Harris showed off his long-range shooting in Washington’s 74-61 victory over Whittier Christian in a Southern California Regionals Division IV semifinal game Thursday at Fresno City College.
His versatility is one of the reasons he is the Central Section’s all-time single-season scoring leader. Harris, who has signed a letter of intent to play at Fresno State next season, passed Clifton Pondexter, a former Cal State Long Beach and National Basketball Assn. player who played at San Joaquin Memorial in the early 1970s. Harris has 822 points this season.
“We didn’t realize how good Harris was from three-point range,” Whittier Christian Coach Bob Brown said. “We talked about stopping his dunks and keeping the crowd out of the game. Maybe the kids were a little too concerned about that.”
Harris had a game-high 27 points, including three three-pointers in the first half, to lead Washington (25-5) to the Regional final against Santa Clara at Cal State Dominguez Hills Saturday.
Whittier Christian finished its most successful season with a 23-7 record.
The Hearlds, who won their first Southern Section title last week, also learned that Washington’s supporting cast also can inflict damage.
Forward Brad Gardner was particularly troublesome for Whittier Christian. He had 20 points and helped seal the victory with a pair of free throws with 1 minute 18 seconds left in the game.
Sonny Burton, a reserve guard, added 13 points and also made two key free throws late in the game.
“Everybody thinks we’re just a one-man team,” Washington Coach Al Biancalana said. “One guy can’t carry a team unless he’s a 6-8 guy. Carl Ray doesn’t carry us.”
Harris had only eight of his 27 points in the second half and that contributed greatly to a fourth-quarter rally by Whittier Christian.
Washington took control of the game, leading, 23-14, at the end of the first quarter. The Panthers maintained a six- to 14-point advantage until Whittier Christian got hot from the outside midway through the fourth quarter.
A three-point basket by guard Matt Riehm pulled the Heralds to within 60-55.
Washington started to pull away again after Burton made a short jumper and Harris, who made nine of 16 from the field including two dunks, drove for a basket.
But Whittier Christian didn’t fade. Center Scott Ferguson made a turnaround jumper and forward Rob Diaz followed a moment later with a basket and Whittier Christian was down, 64-61, with 1:35 left. But that was as close as the Heralds could get.
Washington regrouped as Gardner and Burton made key free throws for a 68-61 lead with 1:02 left. The Panthers added four more free throws and Gardner scored at the buzzer as Whittier Christian went scoreless in the final 1:35.
“We picked up momentum in the second half but it seemed like we didn’t have enough ‘umph’ to complete the rally,” Brown said.
Paul McKinley led Whittier Christian with 20 points and Ferguson had 16 to go with nine rebounds and three blocked shots.