A handful of Long Beach high school basketball, soccer and water polo teams made school history with playoff success this month, but none of them lifted the spirits of their community like the Jordan High School boys’ basketball team did with a CIF championship.
The Panthers beat Sage Hill 68-57 on Saturday at Edison High School to win their first CIF Southern Section title since 1996, and they did it in front of a huge crowd representing the Northside.
Jordan students, teachers, alumni and families came together and filled more than half of the Edison gym to support the Panthers. There were also multiple Long Beach high school administrators and coaches who came wearing Jordan blue, and even the Panthers cheerleaders and band made the trip to Huntington Beach—turning Edison into J-Town for a few hours.
“This is special for our school and our community,” Jordan basketball coach Chris Francis said. “It was amazing that the alumni came back out. There was even a guy out there who was class of ’74. That’s a beautiful thing for people to still have that pride for the community and the school.”
The postgame celebration spilled out onto the court and lasted so long that the Jordan supporters were asked to move outside so the next scheduled CIF championship game could start. They even waited until after the press conference so they could take more pictures with Francis and star guards Dennis Redmond Jr., Kane Young and Franklyn Chambers.
“The crowd was crazy. It’s fun playing in front of a crowd like that, and it tests your mental for sure,” Chambers said. “I feel like when you come out on top in front of a crowd like that, you deserve to pat yourself on the back.”
All of that expressed emotion carried a bit more weight considering where Jordan and its community have been.
Two years ago, when Francis took over the boys’ basketball program, the Panthers were winless in the Moore League and struggling through COVID-19 restrictions.
“The pandemic was rough on these kids and on the Northside,” Francis said. “We even had some kids who ended up losing their lives who grew up with Dennis (Redmond Jr.). To be able to bring this community together with such a positive moment, it’s special.”
It shouldn’t be a surprise to local fans that Francis got Jordan back on track so quickly. When he took over at Millikan a decade ago, Francis inherited a Rams team that had gone 4-22. Over the next five seasons, he went 82-52 at Millikan, including three 20-win seasons and a CIF-SS semifinal appearance in 2014.
Those Millikan teams packed the gym, lit up the scoreboard, and brought a level of excitement to the Moore League with their high-pressure and high-intensity style that Francis embodies. This 2023 Jordan team did the same while winning their first league title since 2009.
“He’s more than a coach. He’s more like an uncle,” Chambers said of Francis. “He may get crazy sometimes, but at the end of the day, it’s all love, and he just wants to see me succeed.”