Lisa Leslie of Inglewood Morningside High School scored 101 points in only 16 minutes Wednesday night against South Torrance, but any opportunity she had to break the national record of 105 points was eliminated when the basketball game was called at halftime because the opponents refused to play.
Leslie thought that she had tied Cheryl Miller’s eight-year-old scoring record when she left the Morningside Gym because officials had allowed Leslie to take four technical foul shots at the beginning of the second half, charging South Torrance with a delay-of-game penalty. Leslie made all four, but the free throws were nullified later by a Southern Section administrative ruling.
“I was kind of heartbroken that I didn’t break the record,” Leslie said. “I asked the (South Torrance) coach before they left the court if they would let me score three more baskets, and then he asked his team, and they said ‘No.’ ”
The confusion began when South Torrance Coach Gil Ramirez did not bring his team back on the court to begin the second half with his team trailing, 102-24, the official final score.
After beginning the game with only six players, South Torrance was forced to play the final minutes of the first half with four players after two fouled out.
Ramirez could not be reached for comment.
Said official John Lundquist: “I allowed her (Leslie) to shoot the foul shots because she was so close to the record. But, after review with (Southern Section associate commissioner) Dean Crowley, the game was over at halftime after the coach refused to play.”
Leslie, a 6-foot-5 senior center who won this season’s Dial Award as the top female student-athlete in the nation, made 37 of 56 field goal attempts and 27 of 35 free throws. She scored 49 points in the first quarter and 52 in the second, an average of more than six points a minute. Sherrell Young scored Morningside’s only other point with two minutes remaining in the half.
“The points I scored weren’t easy,” said Leslie, whose lip was cut during what she said was a physical game. “There were not a whole lot of layups. They sent all five players after me the whole game, and I tried not to pay attention to it.”
Morningside Coach Frank Scott was disappointed with the Southern Section’s ruling nullifying the record but added: “We will accept their ruling, but I am not very happy with the South Torrance people for taking their team off the floor.”
The Southern Section will recommend disciplinary action against the South Torrance coach.
“Removing a team from the court is a serious violation of our (Southern Section) sportsmanship code of ethics,” Crowley said. “We will contact South Torrance and expect the principal to remove the coach from his duties for the remainder of the season, if reports are true.”
South Torrance principal John Schmitt, who was not aware of Crowley’s remarks late Wednesday night, said earlier that he did not condone running up the score.
“As I understand it, the kids were playing as hard as they could trying to stay out there,” he said. “One of the four had a previous injury and (Ramirez) was concerned.
“I have concern over the score and running the score up at the expense of an another team. That is not what we promote at our school. I am going to find out more details.”
Morningside’s Scott said he didn’t like to run up the score, but added that he likes “to let a senior shine once a year” in his team’s last home game.
Last season, Morningside’s Jo Jo Witherspoon scored 68 points against South Torrance, which had ranked first in the Southern Section single-game scoring until this game. Two years ago, Shaunda Greene scored 61 points against El Segundo.
Miller, a former Riverside Poly standout who set the record in 1982 against Riverside Norte Vista, knows the attention that a scoring mark can bring.
“I know their (South Torrance) coach will holler about poor sportsmanship, but the game is to score points,” Miller said. “It is a shame that she did not get a chance to break the record.”