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Best In The West Day One: Game No. 1
Artesia Hammers Millikan--(Dec. 27, 1998)

First things first, the final score was Millikan 36, Artesia 76.

This game promised to be a big-time mis-match from the outset, and indeed it was.  Millikan's Sam Fernly (6'-6" Jr. F/SG) was the only real scoring threat for the Rams, and he hit two threes to start the game and made it 6-0 before Jason Kapono hit his first of three three-pointers of the night to make it 6-3, and Amaury Fernandez then hit for two to make it 6-5.  It would be the last time Artesia would trail in the game. Ryan Reyes took a beautiful baseline pass from Fernandez following some great ball movement and reversal by Arteisa which finally put the Pioneers up with a little more than 4:00 to play in the first quarter.  Jack Martinez was playing especially well in this first quarter, rebounding well, and grabbing one very tough putback off a Reyes miss which gave Artesia a 9-6 lead.  Kapono then hit another three from exactly the same location as his first with 1:21 and it was 12-8 with Fernly's third two pointer for Millikan. Millikan was obviously a smaller, maybe slightly faster team, but less-controlled team,  and they started out shooting from the perimeter, which is what they needed to do if they hoped to have any chance of surviving against Artesia.  But ultimately it didn't matter how well Millikin thought it was shooting the ball, because they weren't, and by the end of the first quarter, Artesia had gone on a 16-2 run and led 16-8.  We've got to hand it to the Millikan coach though, because rather than try to slow the game down, he took it right to the Artesia guys, and decided to run with them.  Which, as we said, worked for about four minutes before the wheels came off that strategy.

At the end of the first quarter Millikan's coach just went nuts, cursing at everyone on the table, from the announcer to the scorekeeper (mostly the scorekeeper) because he was convined that the score should read 14-14, instead of the 16-8 which represented the real score.  And this guy was dead serious; thought he and his team were being cheated.  Nevermind that he was the only person in the house who believed that, he wasn't going to be denied a show of anger.  He argued, cajoled, and insulted the poor scorekeeper, the refs, and anyone else at the table, using some pretty strong language, all to no avail, and the score remained at 16-8 at the end of the half.   And well it should have, because this guy behaved like a raving lunatic, and we rarely criticize a coach, so you know just how bad this guy was behaving. As the second quarter opened, he continued, until about halfway through the second quarter, one of the refs looked at him and said "Hey coach give it a rest.  Really, give it a rest."  The implication was clear that unless the coach shut his mouth,   he was going to get ejected, especially considering his language.  The upshot of all the histrionics was that instead of coaching his guys, who were still not out of it at the end of the first quarter, even at 16-8, he allowed himself and his players to be taken out of the game completely, and after Millikan scored those first 6 points in the game, Millikan was outscored thereafter through the second quarter 34-4.  All they could muster agaisnt Artesia was two points in the entire second quarter.   It didn't get any better for Millikan  and they were outscored 22-12 in the third, and 16-15 in the fourth (of course that was after Artesia had pulled its starters).  The final score, as we noted was a 40 point differential.  Huge.  As in mis-match.

When we spoke with coach Wayne Merino after the game he told us "The team was a bit travel weary after the trip to Florida, but we have a day off tomorrow so we can rest. And we will need all of that rest because on Monday we come back to play Pasadena, and they are always tough."   As for how his team performed tonight, Merino said, "I thought we played well the second and third quarters, but what we learned in Florida is that anyone can beat anyone on a given night, and we just have to be physically and mentally ready.  It's really simple.   Tonight we were ready, and they weren't." 

We also had a chance to discuss the team's experience in Florida at the tournament where Artesia went 3-1 and finished 5th. Coach Merino told us, "I thought we were one of the top two teams in the tournament, but we were never really allowed to play, because two of our guys fouled out so early in that one game we lost.  I don't want to complain about the officiating, but I was not pleased with the quality back at this tournament. And from our kids' perspective, it was a pretty hostile environment, because all of the local fans wanted us to lose.  Heck, they were booing us, and I've never experienced that with any of my teams before."

"But such things are really an opportunity for my guys to get better, get tougher, and to learn not to worry about the crowd or the fans.   Even with what I thought might have been a lack of hospitality from the hosts, it   was a great trip for us anyway, and our guys learned a lot," Merino told us tonight.

The complete scoring for Artesia had Marques Crane (6'-3" So. G) with 4 points,  Apolinar Fernandez (6'-9" So. F) with 14,   Aaron Hamilton (6'-5" Sr. SG) with 4,  Andre Hazel (6'-0" Jr. PG) with 8,  Malcohm Heron (6'-4" So. F) with 2,  Jason Kapono (6'-8" Sr. PG/SG/SF/PF) with 17 (including 3 threes),  Jack Martinez (6'-8" So. F) with 13,   Franklin Matos (6'-4" Fr. SG/SF) with 4,  Ryan Reyes (6'-2" So. G) with 6,  and Jon Steffanson (6'-5" Fr. F) with 4. 

For the Millikan Rams, Dominic Freeman (6'-5" Fr. F) had 2,  Shawn Wurtz (5'-10" Sr. PG) had 2,  Vince Green (5'-10" So. SG/PG) had 1,  Rodney Spencer (6'-0" So. G) had 9,  Andre Sparks (6'-4" Sr. F) had 2,  Sean Burris (6'-4" Jr. F) had 3,  and Sam Fernly (6'-6" Jr. F) had 17.

Here's the scoring by quarters:

Millikan 8 2 12 15
Artesia 16 22 22 16

Millidan drops to the consolation bracket and will play at 10:00 a.m. on Monday at Lakewood High against Canyon Springs in Game No. 17.  Artesia advances in the winner's side of the bracketing, and will face Pasadena at 1:25 on Monday in the West Gym at Long Beach State in Game 23.  If they win that game, they'll play again on Monday at 7:30 p.m. in the West gym where they'll face the winner of the Bishop Montgomery v. Bakersfield game.  If they win that quarterfinal game, they would matchup with either Verbum Dei, Harvard Westlake, Serra or Compton, and we just don't care to predict which one it will be.  The semifinal game will be at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, December 29, and the final will be on Wednesday, December 30 at 9:00 p.m. in the West Gym at Cal State Long Beach.  See you there.

The Swish Award
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