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Posted On: 03/17/18 1:16 PM
LOS ANGELES – Five observations from the Tuesday night Birmingham at Brentwood State Southern Division II Regional semifinal, won by the visitors, 48-43:
*The Patriots of Coach Nicholas Halic don’t look anything like the team that was 5-8 during the 2017 portion of the 2017-18.
In fact, they remarkably improved since they lost both of their games in the L.A. City Open Division playoffs.
Since dropping those road decisions to Westchester (59-47) and Narbonne (58-49), Birmingham has played far and away its best basketball of the season while advancing to the Saturday night (6 o’clock) regional final at Santa Monica Crossroads.
While playing each game on the road as the No. 13 seed, the Patriots toppled San Diego St. Augustine (62-45) and No. 4 seed Crenshaw (64-56) before holding off the No. 1 seed and Southern Section’s 2AA champion.
The biggest element would be in the improvement of 6-foot-11 junior Christian Koloko, who didn’t become eligible until the team’s 14th game (Jan. 6 vs. Camarillo).
*How much has Koloko improved since, say, the team’s Open Division loss to Westchester roughly a month ago (Feb. 17)?
In that game he didn’t get his first – and only – basket until a little more than minute was left and finished with just those two points to go with five rebounds and three blocked shots.
But Tuesday night he went for 14 points (despite hitting just two of 10 free throws) with 13 rebounds and four blocked shots.
And he held down the fort in the third quarter (with five points, four rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot) while the team’s best player, Devonaire Doutrive, was on the bench with four fouls.
His matchup with Shareef O’Neal Saturday should be a nice one, for sure.
*Speaking of Doutrive, his overall numbers – 18 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals – weren’t nearly as impressive as they usually are because of the time he spent on the bench in the third quarter.
But he also did more than enough to show why he’s the most versatile player in the L.A. City ranks and perhaps the top unsigned senior in the west.
That was especially in the case in the fourth quarter, when he went for five points, four rebounds and a huge steal to salt the victory away.
*And another of Southern California’s top underclassmen, 6-6 Braelee Albert, wrapped up a strong junior season as the Eagles finished their season at 26-8 and with a second Southern Section title in a row.
Albert went for 18 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots.
*Speaking, one last note on Coach Ryan Bailey’s Eagles:
They lose just one starter who played significant minutes in terrific-shooting senior Charlie Wadler and should challenge strongly for another Southern Section title.