Reed Sends Inglewood Soaring

Times Staff Writer

Ray Reed knows the area well.

63rd Street near Hyde Park Boulevard.

He wasn't there on a fateful night more than a decade ago, but he was 5 years old when his father was murdered at the location.

"He got into an argument with some guy and the guy took it to another level and gunned him down," Reed said. "I remember the funeral as if it was yesterday. Even though I was so young, it was something I didn't forget."

On Reed's right shoulder is a tattoo that reads, "R.I.P. Dad. Heaven is God's gift."

Reed's gift is basketball. He plays it well for Inglewood High, leading his team to a "miracle season," in the words of his coach.

This was supposed to be one of the worst years in the Sentinels' history. The talent was apparently threadbare, with nobody close to the ability of alums such as the Boston Celtics' Paul Pierce or even DeAngelo Collins, who opted unsuccessfully for the NBA draft after dominating at Inglewood last year.

With Reed in the lead, the Sentinels are a game away from playing in the state Division II championship game. The numbers for the 6-foot-1 senior point guard tell the Sentinels' story.

He had 25 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in an 81-60 victory over Escondido in the Southern California Regional quarterfinals, then sparked the Sentinels to victory Thursday over Bellflower St. John Bosco with 23 points in a semifinal. Inglewood (26-9) plays Santa Ana Mater Dei (33-2) in today's regional championship at the Long Beach Arena.

Reed, who prefers Ray or even "Ray-Ray," the name his mother called him as a child, to his given name Rayshawn, has been around basketball "pretty much all my time."

"I started playing at 8 at Jesse Owens Park [east of Inglewood]," he said. "I got hooked at an early age. I grew up on 103rd and Normandie, a pretty rough area. I had basketball to keep me away from certain things that I didn't belong in."

Reed received a reminder of what could go wrong about a year ago, when he was sentenced to about 30 hours of community service for his role in an undisclosed off-campus incident that involved several basketball players from other high school teams.

"It was something very, very minor, but it taught him a lesson that you've got to watch what you do, no matter what," Inglewood Coach Pat Roy said.

Reed declined to discuss specifics, saying, "It's pretty tough but it's better than paying a real price, being in jail or something worse."

Reed, who has been offered scholarships by Oregon State, Fresno State and George Washington, couldn't stop Inglewood from an early-season funk.

The Sentinels staggered at the start of Bay League play, losing four consecutive league games for the first time in Roy's 11-year career.

But Inglewood has been the biggest surprise of the playoffs, reaching the regional final for the first time since 1994. And to think it almost ended in the second round of the Southern Section Division II-AA playoffs, which precede the state tournament.

It was then that Inglewood trailed Westlake Village Westlake at halftime, 42-27. Reed scored nine fourth-quarter points to complete a sizzling second half for the Sentinels, who won, 84-67.

In the next round, Reed scored 25 points to help knock out top-seeded San Bernardino San Gorgonio, 70-64. After the game, Reed stomped on a poster that had on it the name of a San Gorgonio player.

"They had them as the No. 1 seed and we read in the papers that they were going to breeze through the playoffs," Reed said. "I did it out of emotion, like 'I told you we were going to win.' "

The Sentinels clinched a bid to the state playoffs by advancing to the Division II-AA championship game, which they lost to St. John Bosco, 62-59. They avenged the loss in Thursday's regional semifinal, 61-58.

Reed scored 12 points in the first quarter to spur Inglewood to an 18-2 lead. The Sentinels never trailed.

Mater Dei will be different from any team the Sentinels have faced. The Monarchs have won four state titles and are favored to do it again this season.

St. John Bosco Coach Randy Held, whose team played Mater Dei and Inglewood twice this season, said the Sentinels won't fare well.

"They have no chance," Held said. "Mater Dei's got eight Division I-caliber players. They're at a different level."

Reed doesn't mind being an underdog.

"I don't get scared of anybody," Reed said. "They're a good team, but we have no choice. We have to keep it going."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World