Immanuel High boys basketball coach C.J. Haydock in no way could have predicted a 77-60 win over Oaks Christian-Westlake Village on Saturday night, much less a throttling that had the top-seeded Eagles up by 27 in the fourth quarter.
They played the Southern California Regional Division IV quarterfinal against one of those countless private SoCal all-sport powers.
But this Haydock knew: His team would have a profound homecourt advantage in a gym stuffed with nearly 1,000 fans long before the 6 p.m. start. Gates opened at 4:30 p.m.
“We finish our 3:45 (p.m.) team devotions,” Haydock said, “I look out the window because I’m curious and 100 people are in line. At 4, there’s 200 — minimum. At 4:30, there’s 300.
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“Man, we don’t have to worry about our adversaries because the strength of our adversaries can never match the strength of our community — there’s no way. I know there are programs with incredible tradition and support, but I’ll put mine right up against any of them.”
The home fans were rewarded with a performance that found no weakness from the school-record 30-2 team against eighth-seeded Oaks Christian (18-12).
• Darrin Person Jr., a 6-6, 217-pound sophomore forward dominating a brawnish Vikings front line, delivered 27 points and 10 rebounds. Teammate Lance Henderson, a 6-5, 170-pound senior who got banged around early by the Lions’ muscle inside, gathered himself and had eight rebounds.
• Junior point guard Colin Slater, making things happen against a Mission Oaks defense that clearly wanted no part of him in man-to-man defense, had 18 points and 13 assists after being shut out in the first quarter, after which the Vikings led 15-13.
• Immanuel then took command with a 33-15 run, punctuated on junior R.J. Horn’s 3-pointer from the left baseline after his offensive rebound.
Horn, who made four 3s in a 19-point night, launched the ball but a couple feet from Eagles fans. He turned, acknowledged them and raced down court, a semifinal date with fourth-seeded Campbell Hall-North Hollywood (27-9) deposited in the bank.
Campbell Hall defeated No. 5 Mission Prep-San Luis Obispo behind senior point guard Aaron Holiday, who has signed to play at UCLA.
“I’m pleased, I am pleased,” Person Jr. said. “But it’s not finished yet, man. Short term memory; tomorrow’s a new day then it’s time to play again.”
Meaning, in yet another game in Reedley — the beauty of landing the top seed — Immanuel will match Slater against Holiday with a duel that should make $9 (adults) and $5 (students/senior citizens) tickets a bargain.
Slater, averaging 20.5 points, 4.5 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals a game, has been offered scholarships by Fresno State, Pacific, Cal Poly, UC Santa Barbara, San Jose State, Texas Southern, Chicago State, Hawaii and Tulane. And Stanford, Harvard, Lehigh, Gonzaga, Cal and Colorado have expressed interest, Haydock said.
“That’s going to be a fun one,” Haydock said of the backcourt showdown.
Then, referring to Campbell Hall in general, he added: “They fly; they might play as fast as anyone in the state of California. They play five guards, and two of them are 6-5. It’s a track meet.”