Covering High School Sports in America
PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - Get ready for the world's longest blog post. Each day we will fill your heart's and hoop's desire with everything and anything from the MaxPreps Holiday Classic.

Photo by Louis Lopez

Lincoln's Isaiah Whitehead showed why many consider him one of the top sophomores in the country.

Had a nice little 10-hour drive from the San Francisco Bay Area - a jaunt that normally takes closer to seven, but thanks to lovely Holiday traffic along Interstate 5, we embraced every rolling tumbleweed and oil rig in the state.

Anyway, now that I've let that all go, let's get down to business.

We'll update this throughout the day with results, nuggets, photos and other impressions. Consider these post-Christmas stocking-stuffers. We'll also run a daily feature with a game and feature of the day on our national home page.

NO JET LAG: Lincoln (Brooklyn, N.Y.) couldn't have been more impressive in its 83-36 win Bishop Manogue (Reno, Nev.) as six players scored in double figures led by 20 from 6-foot-7 junior Tafari Whittingham.

The Railsplitters - great nickname by the way - which arrived Monday night looked fresh, played hard, shared the ball and showed off its remarkable depth while improving to 7-0.

Photo by Louis Lopez

Point guard DaShawn Suber is a recent transfer from New Jersey.

Dwayne Morton, in his 15th season, doesn't have Sebastian Telfair or Lance Stephenson - yet - but instead this squad really plays team ball and tough defense.

Ian Vasquez had 12 points and Isaiah Whitehead, Shaquille Davis and Rakim Lesane all had 11 points. Recent St. Patrick's transfer Dashawn Suber added nine points.

Whitehead, a 6-3 shooting guard, is considered one of the top sophomores in the country.

Morton's son, 6-foot junior Tre'vonn Morton, along with nephew Marquis Morton and cousin Kwame MortonKwame Morton are other players on the 13-man roster. Ethan Telfair, Sebastian's younger brother, did not make the trip for unspecified reasons.

"I'd give it a strong 'B,' " coach Morton said of his team's performance. "We have a lot of transfers (four) and this is a great opportunity for our guys get to know each other. This was a good start."

BAM!: High School dunk contests are probably as strong as NBA showcases 30 years ago - not that they had them. On Tuesday, there were an assortment of high-flying slams, mostly on fastbreaks or breakaways.

Photo by Louis Lopez

Xavier Johnson had another big game in another big win for Mater Dei.

But the best of the day came from Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) 6-7 swingman and Colorado-bound Xavier Johnson, who took a tough interior pass from Eli Stalzer and with two defenders sandwiching him, went straight up, from a flat foot and tomahawked an emphatic left-handed jam during a 75-42 win over a very good Burbank (Calif.) squad.

Johnson scored 16 and UNLV-bound Katin Reinhardt had 18 points including four three-pointers as the seventh-ranked Monarchs improved to 9-1. Andre Spight had 11 points and Kane Kennedy added 10 for Burbank (6-4), which was outscored 18-4 in the fourth quarter.

Going against Baylor-bound 7-footer Isaiah Austin at the City of Palms Tournament helped Johnson be so decisive and aggressive on his slam.

"When you're down low you have to be strong," Johnson said. "(From a standing start) that was one of my better ones."

Johnson is forced to play the interior more than he's used to because the Monarchs are primarily all guards. "I've really worked on being more versatile," he said. "We're all work at it."

ONE MORE SKILL: As if Josh Hearlihy doesn't have enough skills. His new, but reluctant one, is score-keeping.

Photo by Louis Lopez

Zena Edosomwan controlled the middle with 11 points and 15 rebounds for Harvard-Westlake.

The highly versatile 6-7 guard for  Harvard-Westlake (North Hollywood, Calif.) is out for the year with patella tears in both knees and Tuesday he was at the scorer's table adding up team fouls, tracking timeouts and adding free throws and field goals.

With him pushing a pencil and not the ball up court, the Wolverines (6-3) defeated Skyline (Sammamish, Wash.) 70-58. Francis Hyde made up for Hearlihy's absence with six 3-pointers and a game-high 20 points, Derick Newton added 15 and Zena Edosomwan 11 points and 15 rebounds.

Will Parker had four 3-pointers and 18 points for Skyline and Lucas Shannon chipped in 16 for Skyline (7-1).

"I'd rather be out there obviously, but I might as well learn something new," said Hearlihy, who just committed to Utah.

KING IS BACK: After a pair of down years, King (Riverside, Calif.) coach Tim Sweeney is not afraid to say it. "We're back," he said before his team's first-round Desertheatteamshop.com Division game with Canoga Park.

Photo by Louis Lopez

Lucas Shannon goes up for two of his 16 points for Skyline.

The Wolves entered 7-2 and easily could be 9-0, losing buzzer-beaters to defending Southern California Division II champion Summit (54-51) and Clovis West (74-72).

This after seasons of 11-15 and 12-16.

King was the state Division II champion in 2002 and has featured such standouts as current San Antonio Spurs rookie Kawhi Leonard, University of New Mexico starter Tony Snell and Colorado leading scorer Carlon Brown. 

"We've been down a little but this team has talent and they get after it," Sweeney said. "I like their chemistry."

Sweeney said for the first time he's letting his team go "end-to-end." That means run, gun and defensive pressure. They are led by super slick 5-9 point guard Nikko Turner (think Nate Archibald), 6-8 Brandon Pippenger (think Brian Scalabrine) and 6-foot sophomore Chris Lott, nephew of NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott. Turner is a certain Division I talent and Pippenger a borderline next-level player.

Asked if his team has hit triple digits yet, Sweeney said, "Not yet."

Photo by Louis Lopez

Nikko Turner with a 3-pointer in Tuesday's lopsided win.

He must have known something. Against an over-matched Canoga Park team, the Wolves exploded for 36 points in the third quarter, had 59 by halftime and 75 at the end of three. A running clock prevented them from hitting 100 in a 91-31 win.

Brenton Muldrow, Lance Page and Lott had 11 points and Turner 10. Lott and Pippenger (nine points) each had four steals. Lott also had team-high seven rebounds.

King was originally slated for the top division - the MaxPreps Invitational division - but was moved "down" when Lincoln (N.Y.) entered late. With Silverado (Las Vegas, Nev.) and Crescenta Valley (La Crescenta, Calif.) in his new division, Sweeney isn't sure the Wolves aren't in a tougher bracket.

"That's OK," he said. "We'll find out just where we're at."

IF IT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED: Dorsey's (Los Angeles, Calif.) 6-7 post/power forward Donald Muepo Jr.. wouldn't take no or rejection for an answer.

Photo by Louis Lopez

Donald Muepo Jr. goes up strong for a rebound over Tyler Morris.

Thirty seconds after getting blocked clean by 6-5 Darren Buckles, Muepo powered in a tough turnaround jumper in the key with 34 seconds left that proved to be the game winner in a 60-59 win over Foothill (Henderson, Nev.). Muepo went right over Buckles again. This time he wouldn't be stopped.

"That hurt," Muepo said about getting blocked by Buckles the first time. "I've been blocked before but I can't remember in a clutch spot like that. The next time down I just went up stronger."

Dorsey (7-3) will need to be much stronger Wednesday when it faces Mater Dei in pool action.

"We'll need to play a lot better, especially defensively," Muepo said. "(Foothill) plays a lot like (Mater Dei). They move the ball, set a lot of picks and shoot well. Mater Dei is a lot bigger."

Muepo and Kalin Barber a 6-4 senior shooting guard, led Dorsey with 18 and 16 points, respectively. Both are getting Division I looks. Greg Cox, a gritty 5-10 senior guard, led all players with 20 points for Foothill (6-4) which led most of the game.

Dorsey took its first lead 58-57 since early in the first quarter on a 3-pointer by DeSean Frazier with 1:15 remaining. After Brannon Cresanto made a driving layup to give Foothill a 59-58 lead, Dorsey coach Kevin Gipson called timeout and set up a play for Muepo.

"He's a tough kid," Gibson said. "He'll find a way."

Asked what it will take to compete with Mater Dei on Wednesday, Gibpson said. "It will take our 'A' game. Check that, our double-A game." 

PRO AT FIRST SIGHT: Sweeney said the first time he saw Leonard walk into the gym as a sophomore, "I knew he was going to the NBA. He had that kind of build and presence."

Photo by Louis Lopez

Brandon Pippenger helped King to a lopsided victory.

Leonard made a huge impact in the Spurs' 95-82 season-opening win on Monday. He was the first player off Gregg Popovich's bench and had six points, six rebounds and two steals.

"Kawhi is a very athletic individual," Popovich told the San Antonio Express. "He's got good size, good strength and he possesses great length. ... He wants to be involved. ... He's not afraid to put up a shot."

MORE RUNNING CLOCK: The day started with two other blowouts at Cathedral City High School - host of the top two divisions - Lakeside (Lake Elsinore, Calif.) defeated host Cathedral City 80-56 and Ponderosa (Shingle Springs, Calif.) had little trouble with Santa Ana Valley 59-31.

John Manhard had 22 points for Lakeside and Melvin Washington added 17. Isaiah Davis and Nickolas Taquin had 12 points each for the host team.

Ponderosa, which won just two games last season, took its fifth game, utilizing a huge size advantage and 15 points from Curtis Opsahl, 13 by Trevor Hammitt and 10 from Chris Snyderr, a 6-8 sophomore who coach Andy Beal hopes will transform into former Ponderosa standout Brad Waldo, a redshirt freshman at St. Mary's College. Both had similar body types as sophomores.

"Brad became very focused after his sophomore season," Beal said. "We're hoping the same for Chris."

Beal was most happy how his team drove aggressively to the basket and ran the court. The Bruins take a giant leap in competition Wednesday when it plays El Camino (Oceanside, Calif.), a perennial San Diego Section power.  

"I told the guys before the game that we're about a dozen possessions from being 7-3 rather than 4-6," Beal said. "We're going to have to take advantage of every possession against this team."

PRE-TOURNAMENT RATINGS BY DIVISIONS: We'll start with this. The basics. You may not agree with our computer rankings but they sure are fun to talk about. So, according to that magic computer formula, here are how each of the top two divisions should shake out.

MaxPreps Invitational Division
1. Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) 8-1 43.2 MP computer rating
2. Skyline (Sammamish, Wash.) 7-0 29.8
3. Lincoln (Brooklyn, N.Y.) 6-0 29.5
4. Foothill (Henderson, Nev.) 6-3 23.4
5. Dorsey (Los Angeles, Calif.) 4-3 23.1
6. Burbank (Burbank, Calif.) 6-3 22.2
7. Harvard-Westlake (North Hollywood, Calif.) 5-3 21.8
8. Bishop Manogue (Reno, Nev.) 2-7 11.1

Desertheatteamshop.com Classic Division
1. Pleasant Grove (Elk Grove, Calif.) 8-1 31.3
2. Silverado (Las Vegas, Nev.) 8-0 25.3
3. Crescenta Valley (La Crescenta, Calif.) 5-1 24.4
4. King (Riverside, Calif.) 7-2 23.7
5. Rancho Cucamonga (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) 8-3 17.6
6. Pleasant Grove (Pleasant Grove, Utah) 2-3 16.9
7. Canoga Park (Canoga Park, Calif.) 2-12 13.8
8. Simi Valley (Simi Valley, Calif.) 5-5 10.5