LOS ANGELES — The one-day “basketball showcase” is the newest fad among high school basketball programs across the country.
For those who aren’t willing (or able) to spend 10-plus hours in the gym, wrists, hands and fingers cramped from furiously writing notes and typing out tweets, you’re lucky to have people like myself and other media members who do that “dirty work.”
My Saturday was spent at historic Westchester high school - where so many storied prep basketball players passed through at some point in their careers - for the Westchester Basketball Challenge.
All eyes were on the final two games of the day.
The 6 p.m. game pitted the host Comets against Corona Centennial, which was without 6-foot-9, UCLA-bound center Ike Anigbogu for the sixth straight game.
Anigbogu’s absence aside, the two teams still provided a fantastic basketball game resulting in a 59-54 Westchester victory.
It was a tight game throughout. Westchester led 14-12 after the first quarter, then took a 27-26 lead over Centennial at the break behind eight points and three assists from senior point guard Terrell Waiters.
The Comets were able to extend their lead to four, 41-37, heading into the fourth.
With Westchester trailing by two, 50-48, with under three minutes to play, San Jose State-bound senior Keith Fisher dropped in a left handed hook shot off the glass to tie the game with 2:50 remaining.
Westchester’s Evan Council followed Fisher’s bucket with a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give the Comets a 53-50 lead with 2:21 to play.
Centennial’s Paris Lubin knocked down two free throws and Jalen Hill rebounded his own miss for a tip-in basket to help the Huskies regain the lead, 54-53, with 52.7 seconds remaining.
And that’s when the Centennial mistakes began to mount.
After Hill’s go-ahead basket, Westchester’s Waiters was fouled 80-feet from the basket. The senior went to the charity stripe - in a one-and-one situation - and calmly sank two clutch free throws to give the Comets a 55-54 lead.
Centennial coach Josh Giles called a timeout with under 50 seconds to play and the Huskies responded to that strategy session by committing back-to-back turnovers, which resulted in two uncontested layups for Westchester, giving the Comets the five point win.
Fisher led the Comets with 17 points. Jordan Griffin paced Centennial with 18 points.
The 7:30 p.m. game had Bishop Montgomery - the second-ranked team in the HoopsByUgland.com Southern California Top 20 - against Long Beach Poly - a talented team still battling through key injuries.
If there are two things you can expect from these squads, it’s that each will play with effort and each will defend.
Bishop Montgomery sophomore David Singleton led the way for the Knights, scoring 22 points in a 59-47 win over the Jackrabbits.
Montgomery didn’t get off to an ideal start, on either end of the floor, as Poly jumped out to a 19-13 lead after the first quarter behind eight points from sophomore point guard Darryl Polk, Jr.
Ethan Thompson came alive in the second, scoring seven straight for the Knights, giving Montgomery a 20-19 lead midway through the period.
Bishop held Poly to just four points in the quarter and took a 29-23 lead into halftime.
It was all Singleton for the Knights in the third quarter as he scored 11 of his 22 points in the quarter to give Montgomery a 43-34 lead heading to the fourth.
After allowing 19 points through the first eight minutes, Montgomery held Poly to 28 over the final 24 minutes.
Thompson added 16 points for the Knights, while Polk led Long Beach Poly with 19, including five 3-pointers.
Bishop Montgomery improved to 16-0 on the season.
In the other games at the Westchester Basketball Challenge:
Redondo Union 65, Cerritos Gahr 45
Redondo junior Ryse Williams scored 15 points and senior forward Cameron Williams added 10 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Sea Hawks to a 20-point win.
Gahr sophomore Gary Williams scored a game-high 21 points and was, perhaps, the most intriguing long-term prospect on the floor.
Riverside J.W. North 73, Bakersfield 50
Dikymbe Martin scored 16 points, Deshaun Highler 14 and Christian Gray added 12 in a dominant win for the Huskies
Bakersfield was playing without one of its top players in sophomore guard Ronnie Stapp.
Santa Monica 66, Long Beach Millikan 51
USC-bound senior Jonah Mathews is a scoring machine as he’s proved so many times this season and over the course of his prep career. Mathews netted 21 points in the Vikings win over Millikan. Junior forward Daniel Schreier had a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Millikan was led by senior shooting guard Mason Dickerson who finished with 15 points.
Oak Park 55, Palmdale Highland 47
As usual, the Eagles were led by the sophomore duo of Riley Battin and Wes Slajchert. Battin, a 6-foot-8 power forward, scored 20 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. Slajchert, a 6-foot-3 guard, had nine points, seven rebounds and eight assists.
Class of 2017 power forward Kamara Walker, Jr. had a double-double for Highland, scoring 17 points while pulling down 12 rebounds. Fellow junior Deshay Gipson, a talented shooting guard, scored 18 points with five rebounds.
L.A. Washington Prep 63, Inglewood Morningside 47
Senior Matthew Mondesir led the Generals with 24 points. Junior guard Charles Wright had 13 points for Morningside.