Posted On: 02/24/18 1:36 PM
Chino Hills, Ca. — Long Beach Poly traveled to Chino Hills High in hopes of stealing a berth in the CIF Southern Section Division I championship game, but the even though the Jackrabbits hung tough through the first two quarters, the lone Ball left on the Huskies roster had other ideas.
Andre Ball, who finished with a game-high 37 points, scored 13 of those in a third quarter that saw Chino Hills open a 20-point advantage and take full control of the game en route to an 89-78 victory Friday night.
Huskies junior center Onyeka Okongwu scored 23 points to go along with 14 rebounds, while Nick Manor-Hall added 13 points and Ofure Ujadughele chipped in nine points and eight rebounds.
Junior guard Malik Salahuddin led the Jackrabbits with 23 points, 21 of which came in the second half. Seniors Jesse Galloway and Darryl Polk, Jr. finished with 18 and 16 points, respectively, while Giordan Williams scored 13.
Chino Hills will play Pasadena Saturday, March 3 at a location to be announced Sunday. There are four sites hosting championship games from the various divisions, including Long Beach State (Open Division finals), Azusa Pacific, Colony High and Godinez High.
Long Beach Poly’s season isn’t over yet. The Jackrabbits do qualify for the state tournament after reaching the Division I semifinals.
Darryl Polk, Jr. is a Division I guard
It’s highly likely that anyone who tells you the Jackrabbits floor general isn’t a Division I caliber guard doesn’t know what they’re watching. Polk, the 5-foot-8 point guard, impacts the game in so many ways that it makes you think there are two of him out there at all times. He wreaks havoc on the defensive end as his speed and quick hands allow him to shoot passing lanes and sneak off of his man for blindside steals. Despite his lack of size, Polk showed that he can finish through and around length by going into the chest of Chino Hills’ Okongwu on numerous occasions to finish at the cup. He’s also improved his 3-point and free throw shooting this season. Best of all, the senior has developed a knack for leadership and coming up with big plays on both ends when it matters most.
Andre Ball is among the most improved players in all of SoCal
The biggest reason why Ball has blossomed so much this season is his health. The 6-foot-7 senior wing has missed tons of court time over the last few years with a nagging shoulder injury, but he’s played in every game this season and continues to show progress each time he takes the floor. Ball has all the “measureables” and athleticism one would look for in a prototypical Division I wing and is adding skill to those natural gifts. He’s shooting it more consistently from 3-point and mid-range and he’s also attacking the basket with more purpose in the half-court.
Onyeka Okongwu is under-appreciated for some reason
Any ranking system, whether it be local or national, is subjective, which is why you can’t put too much stock in them and rely on your own eye to tell the true story. The truth with Okongwu is that there are few big men in the country that have his skill and ability. The 6-foot-9, 215 pound forward/center had all of his tools on display Friday. He scored with his back to the basket, facing up, off of tough catches in the paint, through double and triple teams and was finding teammates with passes out of the post that were perfectly timed and placed. The guy most refer to as “Big O” has been a dominant inside presence for Chino Hills since his freshman season and continues to add more to his arsenal.
Poly has a bright future
With the departures of seniors Darryl Polk and Jesse Galloway on the horizon, the Jackrabbits have plenty of talented players remaining on its roster, led by juniors Justin Rene, Malik Salahuddin and Giordan Williams. Rene, a smooth scoring 6-foot-3 guard, didn’t have his best outing Friday night, but Salahuddin and Williams scored 23 and 13 points respectively for Poly and helped it make a bit of a run in the fourth quarter. Six-foot-3 freshman guard Peyton Watson is another young Jackrabbit to monitor.
Nick Manor-Hall is one to keep an eye on
The well-built 6-foot-4 junior was a part of the 2015-16 Chino Hills team that ran the 35-0 table and won a CIF State Open Division title. You might remember that squad being headlined by some guy named Lonzo Ball. Manor-Hall has broken out during his junior season and much of that has to do with him playing starters minutes and improving his perimeter touch. Manor-Hall scored 13 important points against Poly and knocked in three 3-pointers in the process.