REGIONAL PLAYOFFS : Cougars Pounce on Poly
Not counting the first five minutes of the game, Long Beach Poly played Crenshaw evenly Thursday at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
However, the Jackrabbits started slowly and could not keep up with the Cougars, losing 66-59 in the Southern California Regional Division I semifinals.
The victory set up a rematch between defending State Division I champion Cougars and top-seeded Santa Ana Mater Dei, which was played Saturday at the Anaheim Arena. The Cougars beat Mater Dei, 63-61, last season in the Southern California Regional Finals on Kristaan Johnson’s last-second shot.
Crenshaw used its 1-2-2 zone press to force 16 first-half turnovers, including 10 in the first quarter.
Reggie McFerren, a 6-foot-6 guard, scored 10 of his 18 points in the first quarter as the Cougars rushed to an 18-8 lead. Tremaine Fowlkes had 26 points and nine rebounds, and Johnson had 15 points. The “Big Three” accounted for all 34 of the Cougars’ first-half points.
“We had too many turnovers,” Long Beach Poly Coach Ron Palmer said. “I thought the key to the game was the first five minutes.
“The press bothered us early on,” Palmer said. “They’re so quick. Even their big guys run the floor well. We had trouble getting the ball inbounds.”
Trailing 34-27 at halftime, Long Beach Poly pulled to within three on Chris Hardy’s two free throws and Damion Dawson’s three-pointer.
However, the Cougars went on a 13-3 run to take a 47-34 lead late in the third quarter and were never threatened again. Fowlkes, a 6-6 1/2 forward, scored eight of the points.
The Cougars, who have been accused of running up the score, briefly ran a four-corner stall in the fourth quarter with a 16-point lead.
“We weren’t hitting our shots like we normally do,” Crenshaw Coach Willie West said. “There was no need to shoot the ball outside so I decided to run some time off the clock.”
The Cougars made 27 of 65 shots from the field (41.5%) and five of 12 from the free throw line (41.6%). Long Beach Poly was 20 of 51 (39.2%) and eight of 17 (47%).