By Kevin Askeland
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - There was a telling moment for the Rainier Beach Vikings following their 77-67 win over Richwood that spoke volumes about their performance against the Rams in the championship game of the Mission Prep Classic.
After taking a team picture, the team erupted with whoops of laughter, back slapping and chest bumping, which was in stark contrast to the steely-eyed, unflappable persona the entire Viking team embodied during the 32 minutes it spent on the court.
Rainier Beach coach Mike Bethea attributed his team's composure to the lessons learned in practice.
"We teach staying focused because it gives you mental toughness," said Bethea. "When you lose that mental toughness, you start having lapses on the court and you start making mistakes."
The Vikings had few mental lapses against the Rams, grabbing a 17-16 lead at the end of the first quarter and never trailing the rest of the game. Leading the way for the Vikings was Fresno State-bound guard Reggie Moore, who poured in 22 points and was named tournament MVP. Moore was clearly the leader of Bethea's focused starting five.
"He is as good as it gets when it comes to being mentally tough," said Bethea with a smile. "On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give him a 10. Better make that 9 «. Everyone has room for improvement."
The Vikings put together a key run early in the second quarter that set the tone for the rest of the game. More ignited the 9-0 run with a layup in traffic. After two free throws and a bucket by Aaron Dotson, Nyandigisi Moikobu converted a 3-point play when he made the basket and the subsequent free throw. The play gave the Vikings a 31-20 lead midway through the period.
Moore then lifted the Vikings to a 41-28 lead at halftime by scoring six of his team's final eight points in the quarter.
For the rest of the night, the Rams had to play catch-up, but it was something they were used to. The night before, Richwood, from Monroe, La., overcame a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Christian Life of Humble, Texas. To get back into the game against Rainier Beach, the Rams pounded the ball inside to post players Storm Warren and Leslie Davis.
Over the first 10 minutes of the second half, Warren and Davis scored 21 of Richwood's 26 points to cut Rainier Beach's lead to 59-54. Warren had eight points during the run while Davis had 13.
That was as close as the Rams would get. The Vikings went on a 9-0 run highlighted by a Robert Harris putback dunk off a missed layup by Moikobu. The Rams never got closer than the final 10-point margin.
Harris complemented More's 22 points with 18. Warren finished with 20 points and Davis had 19 for Richwood.
Bethea noted that the tournament victory was the highlight of the season, so far, for Rainier Beach.
"This is as good as it gets," he said. "Every night you are challenged by one of the best teams in the state. It really tests your talent."
Campbell Hall Avenges St. Andrews Loss
The Campbell Hall Vikings waited a year to avenge their only loss of the 2006-07 season, and when given the opportunity, they made the most of it.
Playing in an exhibition game against St. Andrews of Barrington, R.I., prior to the championship game, the Vikings got a spectacular effort from UCLA signee Jrue Holiday to defeat the Saints, 80-51.
The Vikings came out hot from the start, outscoring St. Andrews 20-5 in the first quarter and leading 43-23 by halftime.
Holiday had just two points in the first quarter, but got the second period started in fine fashion. First he hit a 3-pointer for a 23-5. Lead, then he got a steal and drove the length of the court for a dunk.
St. Andrews finally got out of its rut and cut Campbell Hall's lead to 32-23 near the end of the half. But Campbell closed out the period with an 11-0 run with eight straight points by James Johnson, including a dunk.
The second half provided a showcase for more scoring by Holiday and Johnson, punctuated with two alley oop dunks - one by Holiday and the other by Johnson on an assist from Holiday.
Holiday finished with 25 points while Johnson added 23.
Sagemont Finishes Third
The Sagemont Lions of Weston, Fla., held on in overtime to defeat Christian Life of Humble, Texas, 59-57.
Drazen Zlovaric had 21 points for the Lions while Paolo Ivis had 16.
Sagemont coach Jorge de Cespedes said the trip west has been a beneficial one for his team.
"We always try and make one trip out of state each year," he said. "This is a very tough tournament. We hear about the great teams out here, like a Compton, and for a team like that to lose three games, we're very happy to win our three."
Compton lost in the fifth-place game to Fremont of Los Angeles, 61-54. The Tarbabes closed within one point several times against the Pathfinders but were never able to take the lead.
Demar Derozan scored 21 for Compton, but Fremont's 1-2 punch of Laron Armstead and Tony Freeland was too much to overcome. Armstead finished with 22 points while Freeland had 13.
In the Elite Division final, Mission Hills downed host Mission Prep 55-48 for the championship. The Royals had the hot hand the night before, hitting nine 3-pointers in a semifinal win. But the Grizzlies jetted out to a 20-7 lead before Mission Prep was able to find its shooting touch.
Mission Hills netted six 3-pointers on the night, with Adam Bemaniam getting three of them. He finished with 25 points on the night.