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Chino Hills takes first loss of the season in stride

Oak Hill defeats Huskies, 96-91

I witnessed something extraordinary on Saturday night after a crowd of more than 3,300 packed into the Santa Ana Mater Dei gym for the featured game of the Nike Extravaganza and saw Oak Hill Academy of Mouth of Wilson, Va.,  end Chino Hills' 60-game win streak with a 96-91 come-from-behind victory.

Sophomore LaMelo Ball, the youngest player on the court at 15, came to the media room after losing for the first time in his high school career. He had done all he could to keep Chino Hills unbeaten, scoring 36 points, making seven three-pointers, driving, dishing and entertaining from start to finish.

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And yet, with all the disappointment of his first defeat, he was both defiant and resilient. He answered every question with a maturity Cam Newton might have learned from.

Asked about the Huskies' success over the last two seasons, he said, "It's a tough way to play. Nobody really knew how to stop it. But we just lost today and got to come back."

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By 12:58 a.m., he tweeted about it.

That's the way his brother, Lonzo, UCLA's top freshman, was last season when he made just two of 21 shots and Chino Hills barely defeated Torrance Bishop Montgomery, 71-67, during its 35-0 season.  Winning was more important than his individual performance.

Brother LiAngelo was more upset than LaMelo even though an ankle injury early in the third quarter left him limping and probably affected his shot. (He finished 8 of 35 shooting and scored 23 points.)

"I have to prepare better for my team more than I did," he said. "I'm kind of disappointed in myself for that."

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Don't worry about the Ball brothers or Chino Hills. The Huskies are 25-1 and still very much ready to battle Chatsworth Sierra Canyon for the Southern Section Open Division championship and a state championship.

Oak Hill deserves credit for becoming the first team to really wear down the Huskies, withstand their scoring bursts and end up victorious. Iowa State-bound Lindell Wigginton was magnificent in the fourth quarter and finished with 35 points.

What was most interesting is how fans starting bailing out of the gym with 24.9 seconds left when Chino Hills fell behind by six points. Did they forget that the Huskies never give up and have three-point shooters?

Sure enough, LaMelo Ball made a three to cut the Oak Hill lead to 94-91 with 11 seconds left. Then the Huskies forced a turnover with 9.9 seconds left. They had the ball out of bounds with a chance to tie the score. LiAngelo Ball got the pass and immediately put up a three. It hit the rim but didn't go in. Oak Hill's Wigginton was fouled and converted both free throws to clinch the victory.

It was quite a night for fans who like dunks and big-time future players. Junior Marvin Bagley III of Sierra Canyon, looking every bit like the future NBA lottery pick he is, set a tournament single-game scoring record with 43 points in a 98-72 win over Las Vegas Bishop Gorman.

Bol Bol, the 7-foot-1 junior from Santa Ana Mater Dei, was throwing down dunk after dunk in the Monarchs' 74-62 win over San Diego St. Augustine.

Perhaps some of the excitement surrounding Chino Hills will be diminished after the defeat, but considering how much talent exists in Southern California high school basketball, the gyms are still going to be packed. It's going to be so fun watching LaMelo Ball and Marvin Bagley III continue to mature and develop. No community in the U.S. has two players quite like them.

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Twitter: latsondheimer

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