By Bonta Hill
Mission High School forward Gione Edwards slumped through the non-league season, as off-the-court issues plagued his on-court performance and nearly got him cut from the team.
But since Academic Athletic Association league play began, Edwards has shaken off the issues and has catapulted himself into the conversation for City Player of the Year.
Edwards played a key role again for the Bears, with 21 points and 17 rebounds in Mission’s 66-54 victory over visiting Lowell on Friday.
“We took [our first] loss at Galileo hard, so we were really focused in on Lowell,” Edwards said. “Things were looking shaky for me in the preseason, and for this team after [the Galileo game], but me and the other captains called a team meeting. We’re just trying to win and get back to the championship.”
Lowell head coach Rob Ray was pleased with his team’s effort, but a slew of missed lay-ups and 21 turnovers doomed the Cardinals.
“I’d say we missed seven, eight lay-ups [and] had some turnovers, which Mission makes you do, but I’m happy with what happened out here today,” Ray said. “We’re going into a new direction and we’re going to do what we want to do, and not be afraid to go up and down the court. I’m still proud of the kids effort tonight.”
Lowell jumped ahead 12-11 in the first quarter, but Mission went on a 9-0 run to close the quarter with a 20-12 lead.
The Cardinals again took a lead in the second quarter, when Lowell guard Jonathon Li’s 3-point play gave them a 26-25 advantage, but the Bears forced five turnovers in the last two minutes of the half, leading to a 37-29 Mission lead at the half.
Edwards had 14 points and ten rebounds at the break and Lowell didn’t get closer the rest of the way.
Mission junior guard Kevin Murray, who was benched by head coach Arnold Zelaya in the first half due to issues in the classroom, started the third quarter and made his presence felt immediately, scoring eight points in the frame while Mission increased its lead to 53-42 by the end of the third quarter.
Mission led by as many as 17 points in in the final quarter, before turnovers allowed the Cardinals to cut into the deficit late.
Zelaya, who had to sit other players for disciplinary reasons in Mission’s loss to Galileo on Tuesday, still wants to see his team play a complete game.
“I still feel like we’re only playing well in spurts, but we got the win,” Zelaya said. “The goal here – since I’ve been here – is to get to the championship [game] and win it. Last year, we fell short with this group and it’s still fresh in my mind, and hopefully it’s still fresh in [the team’s] mind.”
As for Edwards, Zelaya spoke highly of the senior and has commended him on his effort to overcome his personal struggles.
“Gione has been carrying us and is probably playing better than anybody in [the] league.” Zelaya said. “He went through a lot of non-league issues and he was one of the guys I was going to cut loose, but we had a long talk, he’s answered the challenge and he’s become the most consistent player on our team.”
Gione Edwards – 21
Laron Davis – 13
Kevin Murray – 10
Antoine Porter – 7
Miles Prescott – 7
Jonathon Li – 11
Jorell Cacatian – 9
Jackson Miao – 9
Avery Nicastro-Aikman – 7
Max Pollard – 6