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Wooden High School Invitational: Los Alamitos
Beats Rancho Buena Vista--(Dec. 5, 1998)

Rancho Buena Vista came up short in their first ever appearance in the John R. Wooden High School Invitational, losing to the Los Alamitos Griffins 59-45. For Los Al, it was time to show everyone that they could win one, as last year they were hammered by De Matha and Joe Forte and Keith Bogans.  And that was when Los Al had Matt Komer who is now at UCLA, and rumored to be playing volleyball.   But that was then, and this is now.  And if you remember our report, you know we listed the complete rosters, but we didn't have pictures.  This time, because it's about 2 o'clock in the morning, and we've got the pics, we just don't have the inclination to type out the full rosters.  Maybe later but not now.

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Jason Bow (34), Nathan Vernes (25) and Ron Prettyman (20)
looking for the rebound

Call it big-arena jitters, call it stage fright, or just a mental lapse, but Rancho Buena Vista, which had been shooting fine in the first half, well sort of fine at .500 from the field on 13of 26 shooting and 2-3 from the free-throw line for a totl of 28 first half points to Los Alamitos' 26 first half points, just absolutely   forgot what to do in the second half. The Rancho Buena Vista Longhorns  went absolutely cold in the thrid quarter, scoring only 6 points.  And it wasn't so much Los Al's defense that stopped them as much as it was just terrible shot selection and turnovers.

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Jeff Grgas (6'-8" Jr. PF/C) gets some advice from Coach Brooks

RBV is a team that goes no bigger than 6'-5" which is how tall Sr. CJ Fellers is.  He plays the post, which means that Jason Bow (6'-3" Sr. SG) is sorta kinda a forward, and so is Aaron Abrams (6'-4" Sr. SG/SF) and more often than not tonight they were both roving around the paint on defense in a matchup zone that really wasn't working all that well, especially in the third quarter when Los Al scored 18 points.  But playing Abrams and Bow down in the paint was working just fine in the first half, and they were both equally effective and mobile, slashing, driving and penetrating.  In the first quarter, Aaron went 2-2 from the field, and grabbed a rebound; in the second quarter, he went 2-2 again, and finished the half with 9 points, including a free-throw and 5 rebounds.  Bow was pretty effective too, shooting 2 for 3 from the field, and grabbing 2 boards.

Fellers shot 50% overall in the first half, but then dropped his percentage terribly when he only went 5 for 13 from the firld for the game, picking up 10 points for the night. Feller is a sort of double for Michael Dunleavy, Jr.. . Well, ok, he's slightly heavier, and at 6'5" he's also shorter, but he's got just about the same sort of look as Dunleavy.  Obviously though he doesn't have the shot, and on this team they work him at the post, so we never really got a chance to see if he can shoot like Mike.  His overall shooting stats though would seem to indicate that from point blank range he doesn't have the shooting skills of Mike.  But he sure does look like him out on the court.  Which is sort of eerie because Aaron played with Mike all summer on the Pump N Run team.  But that's another story.  In this game, Fellers managed to play 24 minutes and pick up five personal fouls at a crucial juncture in the game.

Rancho Buena Vista also started Adrian Phillips (6'-0" Sr. G) and Louie Corado (5'-9" Sr. PG) and while both of them are quick, able guards with good handles, they moved the ball a lot on the perimeter and would look to pass in to Bow or Abrams, but rarely shot from the floor.  Adrian shot 2 for 6 overall, dropping from 2-4 at the half and picked up a total of 5 points and 4 fouls.

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Pleick defended by Corado

This was our first chance to really take a look at Andrew Pleick (6'-4" Sr. SG) from Los Al, who is a transfer student from Europe who played with his country's national team in a European pro league (that's an ok thing to do in Europe, even when you're in high school,  because the young high schoolers aren't paid). He's got very well developed legs, a good strong upper body, good speed and good size for a shooter.  His favorite thing to do seems to be to get the ball just above the arc right at the top of the key, jab step, drive and pull up or lean in to the basket from about 10' out, and there weren't many times that he missed that shot tonight, as he went 8 for 16 from the field.  His tendency to want to penetrate also helped him get to the line and greatly frustrated RBV, and Pleick shot 5 for 9 from the line.  He was also tied for the high in rebounds with Jeff Grgas (6'-8" Jr. PF/C) who keeps getting better and stronger, and both of them had 8 boards.

The two teams played most of the first quarter just about even, with RBV taking a slight edge, leading 17-14.  The second quarter was not so much remarkable for what happened during the first 7:40 of the quarter, but for what happened in the last 20 seconds. With only 20 seconds remaining, the score was 24-28, Los Al down, and Pleick got the ball on an inbounds in the backcourt.  He quickly dribbled upcourt and with less than 15 seconds remaining in the half, he went to his favorite spot, the top right hand side of the key just above the firee throw line, sort of at about 5:00 o'clock from the basket.  He stood there assessing the scene, calmly, cooly (must be that Nordic thing) as the seconds ticked away.  As the clock winds down, his teammates are beginning to get nervous. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6.   He starts to jab step and drive the key and then backs out. 3, 2. He goes again, drives to the left side of the free throw line, pulls up for the j and let's it fly for a perfect floater in the lane at the buzzer. Swish.  The shot brings Los Al back to within 2 at the half, 26-28.   More importantly, it energized Los Al, and seemed to demoralize RBV. 

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Aaron Abrams looks on after making a pass down the lane
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Pleick is defended by Adrian Phillips (22), while Abrams (33) and Jeff Smith (10) look on

n the second half, RBV and LA came out both looking hyped up and ready to play, but in the case of RBV, it was all bravado and not much substance.   Aaron Abrams started out playing well but also picked up 2 quick fouls,and his coach decided to pull him, saving him for goodness knows what since the minute he pulled Abrams out, the rout was on.   Just before coming out, Abrams put down a monstrous dunk which had the crowd going sorta, kinda, maybe nuts. . . . well, this is Orange County so they just went mildly nuts.   But as we said, right after that dunk, coach O'Neill pulled him out of the game, and Los Al's Pleick quickly went to work without anyone there to stop him and he managed to thread the lane on three separate drives, hitting each time, and with 3:04 left to play in the third, it was suddenly 38-32 Los Al leading.  Abrams then came back into the game, and just like with Pleick,   RBV tried to the offense through their star player, but it wasn't really working with Abrams, so RBV switched to others. With Los Al's Jeff Smith guarding him,   Silvio Bohanon broke the RBV scoring drought (which had lasted from 5:48 on the clock until 2:11 showed) with a sweet layup off a crosscourt transition pass to bring RBV within 4, 38-34. 

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Andrew Pleick (left) and C.J. Fellers (right)

But time was running out and RBV failed to score again in the quarter, and in fact they went until 5:06 was showing on the game clock in the fourth quarter before Aaron Abrams hit again on a 10 footer from the left side baseline.   Los Al's largest lead was 15 points, and the lead changed hands only three times in the second half.  The balance of the game was given over to a lot of free throw shooting by Los Al, and some field shooting by RBV, and in the end, Los Al won by 14.   Neither team really seemed inspired, but that didn't stop Jeff Grgas who shot 7 for 10 from the field, a perfect 6 for 6 from the line, grapped 8 rebounds (3 offensive and 5 defensive) had 3 blocked shots, one steal and 20 points, and along with Pleick was the player of the game (co-MVP's) as far as we were concerned. Pleick had 22, 3 assists, and 3 blocks to go with his 4 turnovers.

Los Al was running a nice man to man D, and they play good help side D, and RBV was trying the same thing without much success, and some of the guys tended to leave their men alone.  With 1:11 in the quarter, Grgas scored again, and then Pleick drove the lane and suddenly, the score was 412-34.  Just before the end of the quarter, Los Al went on a streak, and with successive Pleick  baskets, it was 44-34 Los Al.

RBV couldn't buy a basket in the third quarter and after another Los Al basket, and two foul shots, the score was 47, 34.   Abrams had a very nice drive in the lane with a reverse layup, but was callled for traveling. Fellers then tried a drive, but the ball went in and out. , then Adrian Phillips turned the ball over, and on the transition, Fellers fould Nathan Vernes, adn with 5:19 left to play, RBV still hadn't scored in the fourth quarter.

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Finally after a timeout and a Los Al turnover, Aabrams managed a nice sweet floater from the left baseline off the dribble.   Next time down, Pleick was fouled, and he's one of the better freethrow shooters around, hitting like 100% of his shots, and with 4:29 to play, the score still had Los Al ahead 49-37.

Joel Jelinowicz, who is fairly mobile at 6'-2" still managed to get trapped in the corner looking for Grgas or Pleick, and following a time out, Ryan Keller fed him the ball in the same place where he turned it over again. With less than 3 minutes to play, and Plcidk, and Los Al going to the line again, the game was pretty much out of reach, at 51-38.  At 1:56 left, Fellers finally used his size to advantage, and driving from the left side of the lane over Grgas, hit a layup and made it 51-40.  Grgas was fouled by Abrams who picked up his fourth, in fact three RBV players where playing with four, Jason Bow then hit one with 1:29 to pla, and then RBV stole the ball and sscored again, and suddly it was a 9 point game..  And as quckly as RBV stated to come back, #20 LA hist another shot in the lane, to make it another 11 poiknt lead.  Grgas went to the line again, and then Pleick did too, with only 15.4 seconds to play it was   59-44.  Mercifully, it looked like it would end, but then with 3.7 seconds to play, Jason Bow went to the line and hit one out of two, and the final was 59-45.

In the end, RBV shot only .296 in the second half, went 0-5 from the three point line, and made only 1 of three free throws.  In contrast, Los Al actually got better, shooting .500 in the second half from the firled and 756 from the line, goting 13-17.   Fouls just killed RBV, and their poor shooting was also to blame.  Ah, we still think they'll do fine this year in San Diego, and that they'll qualify for a berth in the State Tournament.

You can count on it. 

 

 

 

 

 

The Swish Award
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