Semifinal showdowns on tap at Damien Friday

LA VERNE, Ca. – The semifinal rounds are on tap Friday during Day IV of the second annual The Classic at Damien boys’ basketball tournament.

The championship bracket showdowns are set for Damien High’s Athletic Center (in the Platinum and Gold divisions) and Event Center (Silver Division), as well San Dimas High (Bronze Division).

Each of the four championship games is scheduled to be played at Damien during Saturday’s final day of the event.

Platinum semifinals pit Santa Margarita (10-2) and St. Bernard (8-3) at 7 o’clock, followed at 8:30 by St. John Bosco (12-0) and Etiwanda (12-1).

Etiwanda’s only loss (to Rancho Christian in the Dec. 2 championship game of the Battle Zone Tournament at Centennial High in Corona) came to a team that St. John Bosco knocked off in a quarterfinal Wednesday night.

In the Gold competition, another unbeaten – 10-0 Roosevelt – plays Wayne Arnold-led Dominguez (8-3) at 4 o’clock, while, at 5:30, Riverside Notre Dame (8-2) faces Los Altos (9-2), which is paced by junior guard Jarod Lucas, who averaged 32 points in tourney wins over Seattle Prep and Santa Monica.

In Silver semis, Rancho Cucamonga (13-1, with the only loss coming to Etiwanda) plays Muir (6-5) at 3:30 and Bonita (9-4) taking on La Canada (7-5) at 5.

At San Dimas High, Mark Keppel (9-3) is challenged by Charter Oak (7-2) at 6 while Troy (9-4) and Kaiser (7-4) follow at 7:30.

Complete brackets, schedules and results can be found at www.theclassicatdamien

Orange County’s Santa Margarita – which has participated in the past two CIF Southern Section Open Division playoffs, narrowly losing to event Southern Section and State-champion Bishop Montgomery – has two highly thought of college prospects in its junior class, via 6-foot-7 Jake Kyman (averaging 21 points after tourney wins over Birmingham and Pasadena) and 6-8 Max Agbonkpolo (15.0 ppg this week).

But so do the St. Bernard Vikings (whose campus sits a few deep 3-pointers away from LAX), who have “upset” (perhaps a misnomer considering the collective quality of the 16 teams in the division) host Damien on Tuesday night and then Vista (which won the Silver Division a year ago and is currently ranked No. 2 in San Diego), by a point, Wednesday.

Those St. Bernard standouts in the Class of 2019 are 6-9 Romelle Mansel, whose size and skill were put to good use against smaller defenders this week, and 6-1 and quite-speedy point guard Mook Harris.

The St. John Bosco Braves (along with Roosevelt, Bishop Montgomery and Mater Dei, among the only unbeatens among programs designated Division I by the CIF SS) held on to edge Alemany by three points Tuesday night and then came from 16 points down late in the first half to come away with a 12-point decision against Rancho Christian Wednesday.

As much as any of the 64 teams spread over the tourney’s four divisions, the Braves have been quite successful this season due to the “collective” effort from players on a deep roster.

Among the notable of those is junior guard Fernando Gomez (pictured), who has dropped in 14 shots from behind the 3-point arc this week – including the five he hit in a tourney “Crossover” win against Chaminade at Damien Thursday afternoon.

Led by a strong senior class that includes 6-7, Pepperdine-bound Kessler Edwards, along with fellow tourney standouts Elijah Harkless and Krystian Wilson, this is the best team Coach Dave Kleckner has put on the floor since current USC senior point guard Jordan McLaughlin was a senior with the Eagles in the 2013-14 season.

In the Gold Division, Roosevelt (via a layup by senior Jared Williams) and Dominguez (by way of a Wayne Arnold 3 from the right corner) needed buzzer-beating shots to edge Rancho Verde (52-50) and Rolling Hills Prep (55-54), respectively, in Wednesday’s quarterfinals.

Among notable consolation bracket semifinals on Friday, Leuzinger takes on Camarillo in the Gold (9:30 a.m./Event Center) and Damien and Centennial in the Platinum (10 a.m./Athletic Center).

Leuzinger (left-handed sophomore Amound Anderson) and Camarillo (vertically explosive junior Jaime Jaquez Jr.) are led by two of the better underclassmen in Southern California.

The Centennial-Damien game will be just the latest “mentor-pupil”-type of clash, as Centennial Coach Josh Giles was a standout guard at Glendora when Damien’s Mike LeDuc was the coach there.

The programs played twice at Damien last season, with the host Spartans knocking off the Huskies in the first round of the Southern Section’s Open Division playoffs and Centennial returning the favor in the third round of the State Southern Regional Division I playoffs.

Here are highlights from some of the 12 “Crossover” games played at Damien Thursday:

Colony 85, Claremont 66: Junior guard Sedric Altman scored a game-high 30 points for the winning Lions, many of those coming by way of high-flying finishes

  Roosevelt 65, Taft 56: The Mustangs got a collective 40 points by two starters from last season’s State Division I title-squad, Jared Williams (24) and David Agba (16) while knocking off an opponent from the Platinum Division.

Seniors Kihei Clark (a University of Virginia-bound point guard) and Brandon Wilson scored 21 points for the Toreadors (13-4).

Centennial 76, Muir 69: The Huskies (7-5/Platinum) got 19 points apiece from sophomore guards D.J. Davis and Jaylen Clark while senior forward Hunter Woods had 21 points for the Mustangs (6-5/Silver championship semifinalists).

Rancho Christian 79, Redondo 59: In another “Platinum vs. Gold” contest, junior Isaiah Mobley scored 20 points for the winners while senior guard Zekiah LoVett led the Sea Hawks with 21.

Etiwanda 82, Riverside Notre Dame 67: Less than 24 hours after their narrow Platinum second-round victory over Oak Park, the Eagles remained mostly sharp in knocking off a Gold Division semifinalist that was a runner-up in both Southern Section and State Regional finals to Rolling Hills Prep last March.

Four players, led by Krystian Wilson, scored from 12 to 21 points for Etiwanda while junior Anthony Holland scored 25 for the Titans.

Damien 69, La Canada 43: The Spartans finally pulled away from the Silver semifinalist late in the third quarter behind senior Cameron Shelton, who celebrated his 18th birthday by scoring 27 points after 31-point efforts against St. Bernard and Long Beach Poly in the first two rounds of Platinum competition.

Senior forward Patric Panoosi led La Canada with 17 points – 13 coming in the first quarter.

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