Basketball Christmas comes early for Long Beach teams

We’re opening our Christmas present two weeks early this year.

We’re extremely lucky to have the St. John Bosco Winter Classic going on in Braveland this week, as it gives us a rare chance to see the three best teams in the area on the same court right at the start of the season. St. Anthony, Long Beach Poly and Compton highs are all in more or less constant action at the tournament, with games running every day this week until the tournament championship on Saturday, which could very well feature the Saints taking on host Bosco.

On the opening day of action, St. Anthony’s defense impressed against Hesperia. They trailed by a point at halftime but gave up just eight points in the second half, including just two in the third quarter. Long Beach Poly put on a show against Warren with highlight dunks from superstar recruit Peyton Watson bringing the crowd to its feet.

Tuesday, Compton will take the floor against Rancho Verde at 6 p.m. The Saints will compete in the quarterfinals on Wednesday at 6 p.m. against Gahr while Poly will face Crespi at 7:30 p.m. A win by both teams would give us the Battle For Long Beach on Friday in the semifinals—that would qualify as a Christmas present, also.

Poly, Millikan Win Tournaments

The Poly and Millikan girls’ basketball teams both made huge opening week statements, winning their respective tournaments.

The Jackrabbits were competing in the top Southern California tournament going on last week, the Troy Classic, which Poly won after shocking state No. 5 Etiwanda in the semifinals and No. 2 Mater Dei in the championship.

The Jackrabbits were ranked No. 13 in the State this year—in other words, expected to have a good team, but not great in the CIF-SS Open Division. It looks now like that will change given the Jackrabbits’ pair of big upsets.

Poly coach Carl Buggs has won six state titles in the top division, the most of any coach in California girls’ hoops history. Still, Poly has been out of the running for the top prize the last few years. When we asked Carl what he thought, he laughed.

“All I know is to schedule the best and try to beat the best,” he said. “A few years ago, all those teams were afraid to put us on their schedule. We aren’t afraid of anyone.”

Buggs’ daughter, Kalaya, plays with as much fearlessness as her father coaches with; no surprise that she earned tournament MVP honors after leading the Jackrabbits to an overtime win over Mater Dei in the championship.

Millikan won the Oceanview Tournament in a Long Beach championship, coming from behind to defeat St. Anthony 68-60. The Rams trailed heading into the fourth but outscored the Saints 24-13 in the final quarter to win it.

Leslie Garcia had 12 points and eight rebounds in the championship and earned all-tournament honors alongside Shaakira Jackson. Allison Crawford had 18 points and 14 rebounds in the final game. Tournament MVP honors went to junior Vanessa Smith, who had 16 points in the game.

Long Live The Mud Grudge Match

We covered an exciting league soccer opener between defending champ Millikan and Poly last week, which the Rams won in the game’s final minute, 2-1.

The city’s high school sports fields are rapidly transitioning from old-school grass to new-school turf, something we’re overwhelmingly happy about. But still, there was something nostalgic about seeing the Rams and Jackrabbits slide around in the mud, often after crashing into each other.

Is the soccer worse when teams can’t pass the ball cleanly across a smooth surface? Yes. Is it less safe? Undoubtedly. But is there a certain charm to a schoolyard game being played on a schoolyard? Mark us down for yes on that one, too.

We’re excited to see better-quality soccer for the rest of the season. Millikan will begin upgrading the school’s field to turf in early January.

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Mike and JJ go together like mac and cheese: they’re best friends, business partners and Long Beach sports experts. They’ve been working together for over a decade covering Long Beach local sports and now run, a community-funded nonprofit media outlet.