Quincy Pondexter, the seven-year NBA player and former San Joaquin Memorial Panther, observed the Central Section Division II boys basketball championship courtside at Selland Arena Friday night.
Surely, he could relate to a lot that unfolded in front of him.
Not to suggest it was an NBA-level game, but no question it was a high-rise, oft-sensational performance won 74-64 by top-seeded Ridgeview over No. 2 Memorial.
This could be said without a reach: There were no fewer than five future major-college players on the court, and it was Long Beach State signee Jordan Roberts who took over after a slow start.
The 6-foot-8 senior center scored all of his 19 points in the middle periods as the South Yosemite League champion spun a 43-33 deficit early in the third to an ultimate runaway.
Justin McCall, who has signed with Cal State Bakersfield, and Quentin Croney added 18 and 16 points for the Wolf Pack (24-2), which arrived with hunger after losing 84-77 to Lemoore in last year’s D-II final as a 27-1 and top-seeded team.
“Last year, we came in cocky, knowing we had a loaded team full of talent, thinking we would easily win,” said Roberts, who delivered 18 points and 10 rebounds in that game. “This year, we had to stay humble.
“I started out bad and was letting my team down” against Memorial. “I knew I had to come out, play with confidence and come away with a strong W.”
Memorial freshman Jalen Green, invited recently to the 16U USA National team – and already offered scholarships by Arizona, Fresno State, UNLV, Florida State, Creighton and USC – had 23 points and six rebounds.
But he was double-teamed well in the second half – particularly when he received the ball on top of the key – after he torched Ridgeview for 16 on 6-of-8 shooting in the first two quarters.
The Panthers, consequently, shifted from an inside attack mode to long-range shooting, with miserable results.
They finished 6 of 27 (22.2 percent) in 3-point attempts, including 1 of 13 (7.7 percent) in the second half. And that, ultimately, was the difference.
Memorial’s plight could be found with Deon Stroud.
The 6-7 sophomore, already offered by San Jose State, had two thunderous dunks that not only rattled the rim but also the Pack’s psyche while the Panthers roared to a 33-19 lead late in the second quarter. But he was 0 for 6 in second-half 3-pointers and 0 for 8 from behind the arc overall.
“Offensively, we had good looks, but they just didn’t fall tonight,” said coach Brad Roznovsky of Memorial, which was seeking its ninth section title and first since winning D-II in 2012.
While Ridgeview’s senior-heavy lineup was anchored by Roberts and McCall, the Panthers started a freshman, two sophomores and two juniors.
“They started doubling Jalen and we panicked a little bit,” Roznovsky said. “It was a nice adjustment by them. I think their poise was the difference tonight.”
Junior Lunden Taylor and sophomore Milton Burnett scored 13 apiece for Memorial (25-6) of the County/Metro Athletic Conference, which will join Ridgeview in next week’s CIF State Regionals.
There will be 28 Central Section boys and girls teams in all advancing to the regionals. But they won’t know if they’ll play in the North or South regionals until Sunday’s seeding.