TORRANCE, Calif. — LaVar Ball, the now well-known father of the basketball-playing Ball brothers, Lonzo, LiAngelo and LaMelo, can usually be heard loud and clear in any gymnasium.
Tuesday night was a little different for LaVar and current UCLA star Lonzo Ball.
All that could be heard inside El Camino College were the whooping cheers from the Bishop Montgomery fanbase packed to the brim in the venue which held 2,000 people at most.
The No. 9-ranked Knights defeated No. 12 Chino Hills, 87-80, behind 25 points from junior David Singleton and 23 points and 10 rebounds from senior guard Ethan Thompson, in the CIF State Southern Regional semifinals.
Bishop Montgomery advances to face Mater Dei, which beat San Diego St. Augustine in the other semifinal, Saturday at Long Beach State for a chance to reach the state championship game.
“We still haven’t finished our goal,” Thompson said immediately after. “This gives us a lot of momentum and a lot of hype going into the next game.”
It was far from the first time the two teams met as Bishop Montgomery (29-2) lost to the Huskies (30-3) twice a season ago – first mid-season in the Fairfax State Preview and second in the CIF State Southern Regional final, keeping the Knights out of a state championship appearance.
“We have our chemistry down,” Singleton said of the difference between this year and last. “It was special. To come out and beat this team with the same starting five, is almost everything. We still have two more to go.”
Many key members from the Chino Hills and Bishop Montgomery boys basketball teams remained intact for round three Tuesday night, but the Knights prevailed this time around, prompting head coach Doug Mitchell to make his first-ever trip into the stands to celebrate with a rabid student section after 28 years as head coach.
“That was a thank you for them,” Mitchell said of his fans. “They’ve been so good to us all year.”
Another aspect of the game that’s been good to Bishop Montgomery all year is the well-balanced play of its major players.
In addition to Singleton’s 25 points and Thompson’s 23, Jordan Schakel added 16, Gianni Hunt had 13 and Fletcher Tynen scored eight, including a momentum-shifting dunk in the fourth quarter.
“That’s the kind of team we are,” Mitchell said. “We have a lot of guys who can play.”
The Knights jumped out to an early 17-6 advantage through the first four minutes of the contest, before Chino Hills cut its deficit to two, 26-24, at the end of the first.
The Huskies then closed the second quarter with a 10-3 run to take a 40-39 lead into halftime.
There were three lead changes and one tie in a back-and-forth third quarter, before baskets from Schakel and Tynen gave Bishop Montgomery a 60-55 lead heading into the fourth.
The Knights opened kept that five-point cushion after a 3-point play from Thompson at the 6:18 mark of the fourth gave them a 65-60 lead, before LiAngelo Ball, who finished with 25 points in his final high school game, converted a 3-point play of his own and added a bucket in the lane to tie the game at 65 with 5:26 to play.
Bishop Montgomery began to distance itself midway through the final period with a 10-2 run, capped by Tynen’s dunk and free throws from Schakel, taking a 75-67 lead with just over three minutes to play.
Eli Scott, a senior forward for Chino Hills, finished with 24 points and 19 rebounds in his final high school game. LaMelo Ball added 14 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.