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Reebok Las Vegas Holiday Prep Classic:
Dominguez Upset By St. Ignatius--(Dec. 22, 1998)

Last night we witnessed one of the best and worst games we've ever seen.  And despite our weak attempt at Dickensian humor, it's really true.  The officiating, depending upon your perspective, was either the best or the worst too.  And St. Ignatius' coach Don Lippi, wearing a sweater and a tie (a rarity among coaches here at this event)  is either an evil genius, or just a great coach.  After watching his psychological warfare last night, we're beginning to think it's a bit of both.

St. Ignatius features two of the best players on the west coast:  Luke Whitehead (6'-6" Jr. SF), a truly skilled and polished player, with a great body and excellent knowledge of the game, and Joe Skiffer (6'-3" Sr. G) who has signed with Boise State.  After seeing both of these guys just demolish Dominguez, supposedly a better team (and after the game we awoke on Tuesday morning to read USA Today, which has the Dons ranked No. 2 in the country, right behind Oak Hill 

This was a mental war between these two teams as much as it was a physical war on the floor.  To begin with Dominguez showed up late, and they told everyone that they'd gotten a phone call from someone saying he was with the organizers of the event advising them that the tournament was running late.   So they didn't show up until 15 minutes after the game was supposed to start, expecting to sit in the stands, warm up and then start the game almost an hour late. "It's my fault," Dominguez coach Russell Otis said after the game. "I should have had them there earlier, because from the moment we arrived, it all went wrong."

First it went wrong in warmups, when Lippee had his team warming up on the entire gym floor, confining Dominguez to a quarter of the court.  We even asked the refs why they let it happen, and they told us "Hey, there's no rule about warmups, a team can warmup any way they want."  Er, um, ok.  Maybe in Nevada.   Then when Dominguez finally did get it's warmup going, St. Ignatius decided to leave the floor and head to the locker room (for the third time in pre-game warmups) and they walked right through Dominguez as they were warming up.   Disruption.  Mental distraction.  Plain and simple.

Then the refs got into the act.

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The star of the first half, the man stripes
ever ready to blow the whistle

With 3 minutes played in this game, there was no score and 7 fouls called, as refs get whistle-happy. This one didn't start off right for Dominguez from the get-go. A minute later, there were 8 fouls called and the score was tied 1-1.

With 11:52 to play in the first half, i.e., with less than five minutes elapsed, the score was still 1-1,  but the refs had call 9 fouls.    A minute later, and Dominguez was called for their team 7th foul, and the score was still 2-1 as Darius Sanders picked up his first personal foul of the night and Dominguez' 8th team foul.  And another minute later, there were 12 fouls called, and St. Ignatius was up 7 to 1.   These refs just couldn't stop blowing their whistles, and it was principally because both teams were playing about as rough as we've seen two teams play in a long time. The refs again stopped play at 9: 32, calling the 13th foul of the evening.  At 9:00 to play in the first half, the score was still 7-1, and 14 fouls had been called, 7 on each team. St. Ignatius picked up their 8th foul at 8:46 to play, sending Kincade to the line, and he hit both to make it 7-3. Whoopee.  You know it's at least a newsworthy game when both teams' foul totals exceeds either team's scoring.  

The scoring was so slow in coming, that Dinos Trigonis of Belmont Shore Basketball and Rim Rattler, who was sitting next to us, commented that we all could have done the buffet line at Ceasar's Palace quicker than this game would be over. . . At the risk of being repetitive, at 6:47, the refs again called a foul, the Dons' 9th, and St. Ig hit two more free-throws to make it 12-7. Whoopee, again.

Curiously, his team down 5 and rushing shots all over the place, Dominguez head coach Russell Otis put in a lineup which had a lot of people scratching their heads, not because it wasn't filled with great athletes, it was just a group that usually doesn't play together all that much. Two freshman, Kincade, Brooks and Keilon, and Tyson had been out of the game since about 6 minutes into the game, when he picked up his third personal, and he wouldn't return until the second half. Finally with St. Iggie scoring again (16-7), the Wildcats also picked up their 9th foul with 5:01 to play in the half, and Keith Brooks hit two to make it 16-9.  Luke Whitehead and Joe Skiffer got the ball, and decided to play "keep away,"   again part of Lippi's evil genius, and it went along with having everyone, including himself, stomping, clapping and harrassing the opponent every time they came down the floor. It was not until two minutes later that Keith Brooks picked up another foul trying to steal the ball, sending Whitehead to the line (Dominguez' 10th).  Believe it or not, when the scoring got going again, and with 15.3 seconds  the score was only 21-17 and Dominguez was damn lucky to still be in it.  There had been 22 fouls called in the first half alone.  St. Ig was getting every  bounce and every break, not like they'd need it though.

In the second half . . . well, where do we begin.  The refereeing was only slightly better, and the scoring was decidedly better, and with 1:14 to play, the score was 51-48.  Now the interesting thing about playing in Nevada, as opposed to California, is that there is no shot clock, and the teams play 16 minute halves and not quarters.  St. Ignatius went into a zone, and Dominguez just couldn't or wouldn't react to it. Plenty of time left, no need to rush, but they kept forcing shots, turning the ball over.  With 23.7 to play, St Ignatius I held a decided lead at 53-48. Dominguez was reduced to fouling, (there were 9 team fouls each in the second half) and in the end, St. Ignatius won 53-48.

But the real story, aside from the fouling and the rough play was the play of Joe Skiffer and Luke Whitehead.  Joe, a tough, strong player, with great speed and good jumping ability was the game's MVP largely on the strength of his defense, and he had 12 points and 4 steals, shot 4 for 6 from the field, 4 for 8 from the line an had 4 rebounds.  Luke Whitehead in our opinion should have been the game MVP and he had 19 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists.  Well, it was probably his 5 turnovers that didn't get him the award, but hey, it's still an impressive MVP performance in our opinion.

Dominguez thus dropped into the 7th & 8th place bracket where they played South Gate this afternoon. More on that later  The other portion of that bracket was Jordan v. Mater Dei (Mater Dei won), and Westchestester v. Killeen (Killeen won).  So all things working out Kileen and Mater Dei will match up in game 94 and the winner of that game will play the winner of Dominguez v. South Gate for 7th place in game 103 on Wednesday.

For Dominguez, Kincade had 14 points, and he was the leading scorer. Ronald Jackson had 6, Bobby Jones 8, Marcus Moore 3, Jafus Haley 2, Keilon Fortune 2, Tyson Chandler 5, and Keith Brooks 8.  For St. Ignatius, Anthony Devora, a smooth shooter who hit his only three point attempt and made one of two from the field, hit for 5 points, and Jeremy Brady had 8.  Nick Errico had 2, Robert Sayle had 4, and Igor Olshansky, who was in large part responsible for Tyson sitting as long as he did and deserves some props just for that, scored 3.

Here are some photos of the game, just for fun.  Not great quality, but then neither was much, except the play of St. Ignatius.  

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