The question this weekend for Immanuel High’s boys basketball team wasn’t really about beating Granite Hills for the Central Section Division IV championship at Selland Arena.
The 29-2 Eagles, winning by an average of 30 points this season, bolted to a 23-5 first-quarter lead, received a combined 47 points from future college players Colin Slater and Darrin Person Jr., — only a junior and a sophomore — and defeated the Grizzlies 70-50 on Saturday.
Kudos to seventh-seeded Granite Hills (the lowest seed standing among 20 boys and girls teams that competed for section titles Friday and Saturday at Selland), which had section-leading scorer Kilon Bradford (25 points) deliver an impressive show for a team that actually stood toe-to-toe with the state’s third-ranked D-IV private power from Reedley in the last three quarters.
“The best experience of my life,” said Bradford, a senior who never saw Pete Maravich take a shot, yet has a lot of the “Pistol” in him.
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No, the real question for Immanuel is yet to be answered — what kind of experience will it find in the Southern California D-IV Regional, beginning Wednesday.
Can the Eagles really fly with a state-loaded D-IV field?
“Ask me on the 27th,” coach C.J. Haydock said.
That is the date of the state D-IV final at Cal’s Haas Pavilion.
So good are fellow divisional powers Bishop Montgomery-Torrance and Orange Lutheran, they are not only ranked Nos. 1-2 by Cal-Hi Sports in D-IV but Nos. 3 and 8 among all teams in the state.
But that could be a moot point relative to Immanuel’s chances because Montgomery will for sure be elevated to the state’s Open Division — which draws from the best of all divisions —and chances are Lutheran will, too
MaxPreps has Immanuel ranked only 10th in the state’s D-IV, with Campbell Hall-North Hollywood and Marantha-Pasadena Nos. 3-4 behind Montgomery and Lutheran.
Seedings will be announced Sunday from the CIF state office in Los Alamitos. Immanuel and Granite Hills (21-6) will go for sure and two additional Central Section D-IV boys teams could as well.
Haydock points not to any of his team’s school-record wins total — including a 77-61, neutral-court battering of D-I Edison in a game the Eagles led by 30 — but to their only losses.
They were in the Modesto Christian Tournament to El Cerrito (78-61) and Modesto Christian (56-54), D-II teams ranked Nos. 14 and 20 overall in the state by Cal-Hi Sports.
“Those were the two really good measurements where we were,” he said. “To get what we want to accomplish, we’re going to have to beat at least one team of their caliber. Maybe two. Maybe three. That depends on how (Sunday’s seedings) go.”
Person Jr., ideally fit at 6 feet, 6 inches and 220 pounds, is ready to fire against SoCal opponents that surely will match his size.
“Oh yeah,” he said, after contributing 22 points, eight rebounds and a block. “We’ve worked hard and we’ve stayed hungry just to get this moment and beyond. I feel very confident, especially with these dudes behind me.”
They include Slater, a nationally recruited point guard, who had five 3-pointers among his 25 points, eight rebounds, four assists and four steals.
“I feel we’re in a good spot, but we can always get better,” said Slater, an All-State Freshman for Clovis North in 2013.
Can Immanuel hang with the D-IV field?
“Um, we’ll see once we play.”