By Bonta Hill
Washington High School advanced to the Academic Athletic Association championship game for the first time since 1986 with a 60-48 win over rival Lowell in the AAA semifinals on Wednesday at Kezar Pavilion.
Washington guard Brenden Glapion had a game-high 22 points (14 coming from the free throw line), Jeremy Jetton had 12, and Levander Moore chipped in nine points and 14 rebounds, lifting the Eagles one step closer to claiming their first AAA championship since 1982.
After watching his team struggle with Lowell’s slow-down style in the first half, which ended with Washington forward Kenneth Lui receiving a technical foul, head coach Jolinko Lassiter wrote one word on the board inside the locker room — composure.
The Eagles responded coming out of the locker room, going on a 13-4 run sparked by two Jonathon Lowe jumpers, and Glapion’s fast break layup off a steal put Washington up 39-32 with 4:18 left in the third quarter.
Washington outscored the Cardinals 20-6 in the third, taking advantage of the absence of Lowell’s leading scorer Ricco Price, who was mired in foul trouble. The Eagles also forced six turnovers in the quarter.
“[In] the first half, we were all over the place. We were fast breaking against four Lowell defenders and we’d turn it over,” Lassiter said. “But we came out [and] we made our run. It was 16 minutes left in the season and the guys really stepped up and responded.”
For Lowell, the end of their season certainly can’t be blamed on a lack of effort. The Cardinals flustered Washington in the first 24 minutes, making the Eagles play at their pace, diving and scrapping for loose balls that had the Lowell student section in a frenzy.
The Cardinals jumped out to a 9-0 lead in the game’s opening four minutes, but after Washington ended the first quarter on a 15-5 run, Lowell hung on without Price, who picked up two fouls in the opening frame.
Point guard Byran Robinson, who had a team-high 15 points, fueled the Cardinals with six points in the second frame, including his three-point play midway through the quarter that gave Lowell a 22-21, before going into the break leading 28-26.
“Even though we were kind of in control in the first quarter, it still was a little too fast paced for us. But I was really proud of the effort that we gave in the first half,” said Lowell head coach Robert Ray. “[In] the third quarter, the wheels kind of fell apart. Not having the senior leadership on the floor with Ricco getting in foul trouble, it caught up with us.”
Still, Lowell had its chances in the final quarter to get back in the contest. Down 46-38 with just over five minutes left, Lowell guard Casey Chow’s wide open three-point attempt to cut their deficit to five was just off the mark.
“[If] a couple of those shots drop, we get our momentum back and it’s a different ballgame. But credit Washington for doing what they do. We knew what they were going to do and we still couldn’t stop it,” Ray said. “It’s a down locker room, but not a sad one because we’re pretty proud of our effort. We’ll be back.”
Awaiting Washington is a rubber match with Mission, which beat Wallenberg 69-66 in the second semifinal to set up the showdown between the top two teams in the AAA.
Both teams won on each other’s home court in the regular season, with the Eagles winning the first meeting 89-66 back on Jan. 18, then Mission evened the score on Feb. 22 with a 77-66 win.
“It’s a great achievement for the school [to be in the AAA final],” Lassiter said. “It’s a great accomplishment, but we still have one more game.”
Brenden Glapion – 22
Jeremy Jetton – 12
Levander Moore – 9
Johnny Fu – 7
Jonathon Lowe – 5
Byran Robinson – 15
Thomas Kroner – 12
Ricco Price – 10
Max Pollard – 4
Three players tied with 2 points
Mission 69, Wallenberg 66
In a rematch of last season’s AAA championship game, Mission escaped with a 69-66 victory over upset-minded Wallenberg on Wednesday at Kezar Pavilion.
The Bears forced a staggering 32 Wallenberg turnovers and were led by junior forward Gione Edwards and sophomore guard Antoine Porter, who had 17 and 14 points, respectively.
– Richard Lee