With just over 35 seconds left in Friday night’s Southern Section Division 2AA semifinal playoff game, 6-foot-10 Shareef O’Neal, the son of Shaquille, delivered a breakaway dunk that had Crossroads fans leaping to their feet and squealing with delight.
“I’ve done some pretty cool dunks in high school,” O’Neal said with a grin. “That was 180/360 degrees.”
“I give it a B-plus,” point guard DJ Houston said, “because in practice I see flashier.”
There was much to celebrate in Crossroads’ 84-64 victory over San Bernardino Cajon. The Roadrunners from Santa Monica advanced to the championship game next week against league rival Brentwood, which defeated Upland 70-59 in the other semifinal.
Houston scored 28 points and O’Neal had 26. Crossroads, the school that produced NBA first-round draft picks Baron Davis and Austin Croshere, is having a revitalization even though many thought their title aspirations ended when Ira Lee graduated and went to Arizona.
“A lot of people were doubting us,” O’Neal said. “Our development has changed a lot from the first game to the last game.”
O’Neal’s development has led the surge. Whether firing away from three-point range or making precision passes to his teammates, he’s a big-time player who attracts attention and creates opportunities for others. Houston took advantage, finding openings in Cajon’s defense.
Cajon (24-7) had won 18 consecutive games but was never really in the game after trailing by 14 points at halftime. At the end of the half, Houston did his best impression of Tyus Edney — he took the inbounds pass with fewer than five seconds left, dribbled down court and scored on a short shot as the buzzer sounded.
Deshawn Washington and Jarred Hyder each scored 18 points and Jeremiah Martin was limited to 13 points for Cajon.
The biggest decision for Crossroads (20-8) came before the season in hiring Anthony Davis as its coach. He had spent seven years as an assistant but wasn’t the favorite to land the job.
“The kids mattered to me,” he said. “That’s why I never left and stayed through two head coaches.”
Besides O’Neal and Houston, there’s guard Ben Terry, a starting center fielder for the baseball team who’s having to delay his spring appearance. He had 11 points.
Now Crossroads gets to play Brentwood in the final. Crossroads has won twice in close games.
In Division 1, Chino Hills advanced to the championship game with an 89-78 win over Long Beach Poly. Andre Ball, the cousin of Lakers guard Lonzo Ball, scored 37 points, and Onyeka Okongwu added 23 points and 15 rebounds. Malik Salahuddin had 25 points for Poly. Chino Hills will play Pasadena, a 48-46 winner over Moreno Valley Rancho Verde.