SOUTHERN SECTION BASKETBALL PLAYOFF CHAMPIONSHIPS : Artesia Proves Worthy of Its Reputation : Division II-A: Jones, O’Bannon lead defending champions over Woodbridge, 58-40.
It took an entire season of basketball to prove what everyone already knew. Artesia is the best team in the Southern Section Division II-A.
The Pioneers, the defending State Division II champions, made it official Saturday with a 58-40 victory over Woodbridge in the II-A final at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. The victory was convincing enough to be anticlimactic.
Only one team in California, Long Beach Poly, was able to beat Artesia (26-2). The Pioneers other loss was to DeMatha of Washington, D.C.
“It’s nice to know that with three sophomores and a junior in the starting lineup, we have a bright future,” Coach Wayne Merino said.
Bright? It’s downright blinding.
For one half, Woodbridge (21-10) was able to provide enough reasonable doubt to keep people interested. The end, though, was inevitable.
In a three-minute span of the third quarter, Avondre Jones, the Pioneers’ 6-foot-11 sophomore center, made his presence felt. He scored eight consecutive points to give Artesia a 38-27 lead.
“That’s when we broke it open,” Merino said. “We’re a much better team when Avondre is in the game. He’s our enforcer.”
Jones spent most of the first half in foul trouble. He picked up his third with 2 minutes 10 seconds left in the second quarter and had only three points at halftime.
But Jones got the Pioneers off to a good start in the second half with a 5-foot jumper from the lane to give them a 32-25 lead. He followed that with a layup off an offensive rebound, another 5-footer from the key and a jump hook along the base line.
Woodbridge never recovered from that onslaught.
“I had to make up for all that time I was on the bench in the first half,” Jones said.
He made six of seven shots and scored 13 points before fouling out with 2:45 left. Jones also had 12 rebounds, as the Pioneers dominated the inside play.
Artesia held a 51-37 rebounding advantage and often got second and third shots. In fact, during one sequence early in the third quarter, the Pioneers got five offensive rebounds, which finally resulted in a layup by Jones.
Charles O’Bannon, also a sophomore, led the team with 13 rebounds. He scored 12 points.
The Pioneers led by 15 at the end of the third quarter, 44-29, and the Warriors never got closer than 13 the rest of the way.
“We told our kids not to be fans, but students of the game,” Woodbridge Coach Bill Shannon said. “There had been a lot written about Artesia, but we wanted our kids to come out and play solid basketball. We wanted them to do their best.”