Late surge helps Long Beach Poly beat CdM boys’ basketball in CIF semifinal

Corona del Mar freshman Maxwell Scott takes a one-handed shot against Long Leach Poly on Friday night.
Corona del Mar freshman Maxwell Scott takes a one-handed shot during the CIF Southern Section Division 2A semifinal game at Long Leach Poly on Friday night.
(Eric Licas)

It’s rare that a boys’ basketball team would depend on a freshman as the go-to guy for a deep playoff run.

Then again, it’s also rare to see a ninth-grader that has the smarts and ability of Corona del Mar High freshman guard Maxwell Scott.

“I told him, he’s no longer a freshman,” CdM coach Jason Simco said. “You’re a sophomore now, we’re in the playoffs, and I said you’ve got to be the leader of our team and our go-to guy.”


Scott delivered Friday night before a packed house at Long Beach Poly, scoring a season-high 33 points.

Still, it wasn’t quite enough to pull off the upset on the road.

CdM junior forward Jackson Harlan battles for a rebound against two Long Beach Poly players on Friday night.
(Eric Licas)

The No. 3-seeded Jackrabbits made plays down the stretch and earned a 57-54 victory in the CIF Southern Section Division 2A semifinal game.

Long Beach Poly (24-8) will play the winner of Saturday night’s Marina-San Gabriel Academy game for the title next weekend. Despite the loss, the season continues for Corona del Mar (25-7) in the CIF State Southern California Regional playoffs that begin Feb. 27.

“It’s not over,” Simco said. “We were kind of playing with house money there. A CIF championship would have been fun, to be in that game, but this is good for our program. To be in Division 2, playing Long Beach Poly in the semifinals, on the road, to the last second? Nothing more you could ask for.”

Junior guard Jovani Ruff, a top college recruit, led Moore League champion Poly with 24 points.

Corona del Mar boys' basketball coach Jason Simco addresses his team during a timeout Friday night.
(Eric Licas)

CdM, the Wave League co-champion, battled all game long. Neither team had a lead of more than six points.

“I was just energized coming into the game, very excited to play today,” Scott said. “We prepared a lot coming into this game. It sucks we didn’t get the win, but our season’s not over yet.”

The six-point lead for the Sea Kings came courtesy of a straightaway three-pointer by sophomore guard Luke Mirhashemi, giving CdM a 50-44 edge with 5:20 to go. But Poly’s Austin Unegbu and Giovanni Ofoegbu countered with triples of their own, tying the score.

Back and forth it went. Scott’s lone points of the fourth quarter, on a three-pointer in front of the CdM bench, gave the Sea Kings a 53-52 lead with just more than a minute to play. Ruff immediately responded with a three-pointer on the other end.

Long Beach Poly sophomore Nana Ofoegbu blocks a shot from Corona del Mar sophomore Luke Mirhashemi during Friday's game.
(Eric Licas)

CdM had a chance to tie in the closing seconds, but Scott’s three-point attempt from the right was well-guarded and short.

“He’s a freshman?” Ruff said after the game. “Credit to him, he’s very tough to guard, especially coming off the screens. He’ll be a great player in a couple of years.”

Ruff added he was excited to lead the Jackrabbits back to the CIF title game, especially considering they lost the Division 2AA final at Village Christian two years ago when he was a freshman.

Junior post player Jackson Harlan had eight points and eight rebounds for CdM, which was trying to reach its first CIF title game since 2015.

CdM freshman Maxwell Scott gets to the rim for a layup during Friday night's CIF semifinal game at Long Beach Poly.
(Eric Licas)

In another CIF boys’ basketball semifinal Friday night:

Temecula Valley 95, Estancia 79: The Eagles lost the Division 4A semifinal game on the road against the top-seeded Golden Bears.

Senior point guard Jaedon Hose-Shea scored 26 points for Estancia (23-9). Nik Paguirigan and Peter Sanchez each had 14 points.

Estancia coach Xavier Castellano said his team shot 63 point from the field, but went up against a Temecula Valley attack that included 16 three-pointers made.

“They were just better,” Castellano said. “That’s the best team I’ve played all year.”

Temecula Valley (18-14) advanced to play No. 2-seeded Northview in the Division 4A championship game.

The season isn’t over for Estancia, which will play in the CIF State Southern California Regional that begins Feb. 27.