Chino Hills (California) made a case for being the No. 1 team in the nation on Monday in The City of Palms Classic’s quarterfinal round.
The Huskies (7-0), ranked No. 2 in the nation by USA Today’s Jim Halley, beat No. 1 Montverde Academy 83-82 in a game that yet again came down to the last play.
Just three days earlier, Chino Hills needed one final possession to beat Brooklyn Thomas Jefferson (New York) 91-90 in another wire-to-wire game.
“I think we have a chance to be named No. 1 in the nation now, so to have this opportunity, for a little public school out in California to have that opportunity against Montverde, it’s like a dream come true,” Chino Hills head coach Steve Baik said. “We want to keep it rolling.”
The loss for Montverde Academy (8-1) marked the first time they haven’t advanced to a City of Palms final in five years under Kevin Boyle, who took over in 2010. But going further, it also marked Boyle’s first loss in a quarterfinal game at The City of Palms since 1998 when he was coaching Elizabeth Patrick School (New Jersey).
Chino Hills, continuing a strong line of California teams having success at the tournament, certainly made it tough on the Eagles from the start and then remained composed toward the end, too.
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Following two made foul shots by LiAngelo Ball with seven seconds to go that gave the Huskies an 83-80 lead, Montverde’s RJ Barrett leaned into Lonzo Ball on a 3-point attempt with 2.1 seconds left to draw the foul.
The packed house at Bishop Verot High booed in protest because Barrett, who led Montverde with 31 points, had essentially created the foul out of nothing.
But to Chino Hills’ credit, they never lost composure.
“All the credit to the coaches,” Chino Hills senior Lonzo Ball said. “They gave us a great game plan. We had to come out. They’re the home team. We needed a little bit of cushion going into the fourth.”
Barrett made the first two attempts, but missed the next as Chino Hills secured the rebound and then ran out the final seconds. The Huskies move on to the tournament’s semifinal round on Tuesday at 7:15 p.m., where they will face High Point Christian (North Carolina).
LiAngelo finished with a game-high 32 points on 13 of 29 shooting and had six rebounds. Lonzo Ball added 29 points, eight assists and six rebounds, while LaMelo Ball finished with 16 points, though he went 2 of 12 from behind the arc.
It was LiAngelo’s 3-pointer with 28 seconds left that gave the Huskies an 81-77 lead, though it came at a time when the Huskies were reeling, watching as Montverde scored on a number of 3-on-1 breaks.
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“We should have made better decisions and we didn’t. That cost us,” Baik said. “They went on that run.”
Chino Hills saw a lead as high as 14 in the second half dwindle to as little as two with 6 minutes left in the fourth and then it was erased all together with 2:49 left.
But the Eagles never gained the lead, not once.
“We knew we had to come out super hard,” LiAngelo Ball said. “We wanted to prove that we were No. 1. We knew we had to come out and we were just as good as them if not better.”
Ball’s 3-point put Montverde on its heels at a time when it needed it most.
“When I shot it I knew it was going in,” LiAngelo said. “I wasn’t really worried about missing. Once I shot it, I knew it was going to go in.”
Baik went to his bench just twice all game, leaning on his starters for most of the 32 minutes. Elizjah Scott responded with 12 rebounds, while Onyeka Okongwu had seven rebounds and two steals.
In the first quarter, Chino Hills raced out to a 26-14 lead, with LaMello Ball hitting a 3-pointer with 20 seconds left to give the Huskies a lead into the second frame.
Lonzo Ball had 11 points and three assists in the first eight minutes alone.