Familiarity on tap Saturday for Southern finals

LAGUNA NIGUEL, Ca. – Saturday in the Long Beach State Pyramid will be a case of basketball déjà vu or, for you Bill Murray fans out there, Basketball Groundhog Day.

Top-ranked (via the BurlisonOnBasketball Top 25) Torrance Bishop Montgomery and No. 2 Santa Ana Mater Dei earned a Saturday rematch Tuesday night with their respective wins in the State Southern Open Regional semifinal games.

Bishop Montgomery spurted in the final five minutes to knock off the Monarchs (70-55), in the March 4 CIF Southern Section Open Division championship game in the Anaheim Honda Center.

The teams earned their rematch – this one with a slot in the March 25 State Open Championship game in Sacramento at stake – via respective wins over No. 3 Chino Hills (87-80, at El Camino College in Torrance) and No. 8 San Diego Augustine (63-57 at Mater Dei).

The Knights (29-2) and Monarchs (33-2) are scheduled to tip off at 8 o’clock Saturday night.

In the other boys game to played at the Pyramid Saturday (and Divisions II-V will be played at the best remaining seeds’ home sites), the Big VIII League rivals Eastvale Roosevelt and Corona Roosevelt will play at 2 p.m. in the D-I title game.

Have there ever been two teams that know about each another as do these two?

They’ve already played five times (twice in league; in the third-place game of the Gold Division of the Classic at Damien and in a CIF SS Open consolation-round contest), with Roosevelt 4-zip so far.

Tuesday night Centennial (27-9) avenged a first-round CIF SS Open loss to La Verne Damien but toppling the host Spartans, 87-69.

The Roosevelt Mustangs (24-8) had to rally from a 19-point deficit to knock off Woodland Hills Taft Tuesday, 61-56.

The Saturday Southern Regional “rematches” aren’t limited to the Pyramid.

Ontario Colony (30-5) stopped Villa Park (26-6) in the CIF SS 2A finale (74-70) on March 4 in the Honda Center.

They’ll meet for the Southern Regional D-III championship, on Colony’s home floor (as the No. 1 overall seed in the division) Saturday night at 6 o’clock.

Colony cruised past Oxnard, 84-70, Tuesday night while host Villa Park had to rally from a 10-point deficit in the first half to knock off Escondido Orange Glen in overtime, 72-62.

In other regional finals Saturday night (all at 6 o’clock), Anaheim Esperanza (28-3) will play host to Pasadena (26-7) in the D-II contest; La Mesa Helix (30-5) will play host to Reedley Immanuel (23-8) for the right to host the south in the IV championship game next week; and, in D-V, top seed Riverside Notre Dame (31-3)   is at home to No. 2 San Pedro Rolling Hills Prep (27-2).

The “big” game of Tuesday night – unless you were a coach, player, parent or “fan” of any of the teams in the other games – was, of course, the Bishop Montgomery-Chino Hills clash.

It was a rematch, of sorts, of the Southern Regional Open final played a year ago in Long Beach and won by the Huskies.

Nine of the players who started in the game were back on the floor for the opening tip-off Tuesday night.

The one who wasn’t, Lonzo Ball, was sitting behind the Chino Hills bench in show of support of his former teammates, including younger brothers Gelo and Melo Ball, on the night before he and his UCLA teammates were due to take a chartered flight to Sacramento for their NCAA Tournament opener Friday night.

Ultimately, that Lonzo was just a “fan” and not in uniform is the main reason that Bishop Montgomery – and not Chino Hills and his brothers – will be playing Saturday night in the Pyramid.

The Knights burst out to a 17-6 advantage behind the best player in Southern California’s best player – 6-foot-4, Oregon State-bound Ethan Thompson.

But the Huskies, via Gelo Ball’s scoring (15 points in the first quarter) and Eli Scott’s relentless approach to attacking the rim and glass, took a five-point lead in the second quarter before holding a one-point edge, at 40-39, at intermission.

They had another five-point advantage very early in the third quarter before the Knights – with Thompson and junior David Singleton combining for 15 points in the quarter – regrouped to take a five-point edge into the fourth quarter.

The Ball Brothers went out with right elbows and wrists blazing but they combined to hit just five of 19 jumpers over the final eight minutes.

And the Knights, with Thompson or Singleton usually pulling the strings, made sound dribbling, passing and shooting decisions down the stretch – seemingly always resulting in layups – and Chino Hills couldn’t do the same.

Thompson finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds and four assists while Singleton had 25 points (19 of those after intermission). He also “bodied-up” well against the post-up attempts of Gelo Ball.

Forward Jordan Schakel added 14 points and nine rebounds while sophomore Gianni Hunt (who likewise did a nice job of staying in front of Melo Ball on the dribble) chipped in with 13 points.

Gelo Ball his six of his first seven field goal attempts but only four of his next 23 while finishing his career on with 25 points.

  Melo Ball was five of 19 from the field for 14 points with seven rebounds and five assists.

Scott had 22 points and led all rebounds with 16.

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