There were less than four minutes left Tuesday night at El Camino College, where a loud, raucous pro-Bishop Montgomery crowd of 2,000 was in a basketball frenzy. The Knights had opened a six-point lead over Chino Hills. Ethan Thompson and Jordan Schakel were smiling. Chino Hills players were scowling and arguing among themselves. The body language spoke volumes.
"We had a feeling we were going to win," Thompson said.
And the Knights did win, eliminating the defending state champions, 87-80, in a Southern California Open Division regional semifinal game.
David Singleton, who finished with 25 points. scored three consecutive baskets midway through the fourth quarter to end a 65-65 deadlock and send the Knights (29-2) into a Saturday regional final against Santa Ana Mater Dei at 8 p.m. at the Pyramid in Long Beach.
Rarely has any team broken the Huskies' chemistry and confidence over the last two seasons as Bishop Montgomery did in the fourth quarter. Last season, they were 35-0, and Lonzo Ball was always around to pick up things when the going got tough. The UCLA freshman was in the gym Tuesday but couldn't help. There were too many Chino Hills airballs and openings on defense. Bishop Montgomery made the Huskies pay.
"I just got more aggressive," said Singleton, a junior guard. "I realized I want to play with Ethan for as much as I can."
Thompson, headed to Oregon State, finished with 23 points He started the game strong, scoring 10 points but didn't score again until early in the third quarter. He began to attack, and Chino Hills (30-3) got into foul trouble. Onyeka Okongwu fouled out and LaMelo Ball picked up his fourth foul in the third quarter.
"We have to work harder and do a better job on defense," Chino Hills Coach Stephan Gilling said. "I think being in foul trouble hurt us and stopped our pressure."
Chino Hills fell behind, 17-6, early on but quickly regained momentum and led at halftime, 40-39. LiAngelo Ball finished with 25 points, but only 10 points came after he scored 15 points in the first quarter. Eli Scott made major contributions with 22 points and 19 rebounds. LaMelo Ball had 14 points.
Bishop Montgomery used experience and scoring balance to withstand every Chino Hills surge. Watching it all with growing admiration was Bishop Montgomery Coach Doug Mitchell, whose team has beaten Chatsworth Sierra Canyon, Santa Ana Mater Dei and Chino Hills in the last two weeks. Those are three of the best teams in California, if not the nation.
"It took a lot of effort," Mitchell said. "It's very gratifying."
The Knights will get a rematch with Mater Dei, a team they defeated, 70-55, in the Southern Section Open Division final.
— Eric Sondheimer
Santa Ana Mater Dei 63, San Diego St. Augustine 57: The host Monarchs (33-2) prevailed in the second Open Division semifinal behind 7-foot-1 junior Bol Bol, who had 15 points and six rebounds, and senior Justice Sueing, who scored 15 points.
Taeshon Cherry had 25 points and 11 rebounds for the Saints (28-5). Otto Taylor finished with 16 points.
Cherry's three-pointer cut the the Saints' deficit to four points with 33 seconds remaining, but five free throws by Matthew Weyand sealed the deal.
The Saints led by five points early in the game but trailed by as many as 11 points late in the third quarter.
St. Augustine turned the ball over eight times in the second quarter, seven in the third and 22 overall.
Helix 56, Carson 53: Jaylen Arnold scored 24 points in the Division IV regional championship game in La Mesa.
The Scotties (30-5) won their 21st consecutive game.
Carson (23-7) was led by Kylan Wallace with 12 points and Giovanni Sanchez with 10.