SAN DIEGO -
They tried everything to derail St. Patrick High School (Elizabeth, N.J.), the nation's top-ranked team, at the 20th MaxPreps Holiday Classic.
They tried clogging the middle with a 7-footer on them against Ironwood Ridge (Tucson, Ariz.) High School.
The Celtics ran around them.
They tried running by them with a brigade of tough, quick and 3-point shooters from Centennial (Corona, Calif.).
The Celtics jumped right over them.
And finally, they tried to out-tough and out-smart them with a small, rugged, impeccably-coached cohesive bunch from Newark Memorial (Newark, Calif.).
The Celtics held their ground, took a punch and then sped and jumped right over them Wednesday with a 66-43 victory in the championship game of the National Division before a jammed-packed crowd at Torrey Pines High School.
The team's two superstars were indeed super as 6-foot-7 Michael Gilchrist showed why he's the No. 1-ranked junior in the country with 26 points and 16 rebounds and Duke-bound 6-3 lightning rod Kyrie Irving accounted for 22 points and earned the Division's Most Valuable Player award.
At the end of the robust, four-day, five-division, 77-team event, folks from the left coast were left with one prevailing thought concerning these sleek, relentless, unselfish, skilled Celtics squad from the East:
"There's a reason they're the No. 1 team in the country and we all got a good look why," said Newark Memorial coach Craig Ashmore, whose team got 15 points and 14 respectively from All-Tournament selections Khion Sankey and Kendall Andrews. "They really have no weakness. They're skilled, well-coached, deep and play hard. You have to play perfect otherwise a single turnover turns into a 6-0 run."
The Cougars (10-2), who upset the nation's No. 34 team (Price-Los Angeles) and No. 14 Taft (Woodland Hills) to reach the finals, showed remarkable resolve but were far from perfect.
They committed 16 of 24 turnovers in the first half and following a 22-9 St. Patrick run in the second, this one was essentially over. A promising start - Newark Memorial led 9-4 and even 11-10 after one quarter - but without a player taller than 6-3 they eventually couldn't overcome the length - and everything else - of Gilchrist, who effected every facet of the game.
He changed and blocked shots down low, cleared the boards and often showed his amazing speed, athleticism and even guard skills by going end-to-end in record time.
His most beautiful display was clearing the boards, dribbling past everyone then dishing to Irving for a layup with 5:07 left in the game, giving the Celtics a 53-38 lead.
After a free throw by Sankey, Gilchrist made two free throws, Chase Plummer made a steal, driving and layup and Irving finished off the run with a scintilating dribble-drive and hoop, making it 59-39.
"They were definitely a scrappy team so we had to stay strong and play great defense and the rest of the game would come," said Irving, who fought back flu symptons all week to earn the tournament's top honor. "As far as Michael, he always steps up in big games. What he did tonight he always does."
St. Patrick coach Kevin Boyle said he was proud of his team's resolve and patience most.
"That's a tough team to play because they are tough and well-coached but we gutted it out," he said. "I told them that they would try to slow it down so don't expect to beat them by 20 in the first quarter. It was going to take time to wear them down and eventually we did."
Derrick Gordon, a 6-3 junior guard, had only five points but also earned All-Tournament honors for the Celtics, who return to California for a one-day Nike Extravaganza showdown with Taft in February.
"Those guys (Newark Memorial) were really tough so we had to be even tougher mentally," Gordon said.
Said Boyle: "We're used to playing different styles so this was good for us to see different looks here. Overall it was a great trip. The weather is very cold back home and it's beautiful out here but we're still anxious to get home."
Centennial (Corona) 75, Taft (Woodlands Hills) 61
It looked like this was a much more important game for Centennial, which got 24 points by All-Tournament pick and New Mexico-bound Dominique Dunning, 19 from Marquis Ransom and 12 by Michael Caffey.
Deandre Daniels had 15 points and six rebounds and Khiry Williams added 11 points for Taft (9-3), which continued to have trouble at the line, making 9 of 16.
The Huskies (10-3) had a fantastic showing overall and proved with a win over the No. 14 in the country they can play with anyone, despite a lack of height.
Dunning, a terrific 6-4 junior who can get to the rim or shoot 3-pointers, scored 12 in the first half and 12 in the second. Ransom, who added a team-high seven rebounds, was extremely active and picked up the slack for cold-shooting Gelaun Wheelwright who managed just seven points.
"I thought we showed a lot of courage and resolve tonight," Centennial coach Josh Giles said. "Sometimes third-place games are tough to get up for. But I think we realized that Taft is such a talented team and so well coached that they could embarrass us. I thought we played hard and tough throughout."
Price 76, Eisenhower 74: It was too much Cal-bound Allen Crabbe (24 points) and Richard Soloman (21) for Price, which improved to 12-1. Eisenhower, the defending state Division II champions, used a balanced attack led by Keyon Sayles with 18, Alex Varner 17 and Kirby Gardner and Bryan Bock with 15 apiece.
Leuzinger 58, Lutheran 53: In a battle of 7-6 teams, Colroy Gordon had 17 points leading Leuzinger to a tough victory over Lutheran, which got another 21 points from 6-8 sophomore Grant Jerrett.
McClymonds 66, Compton 62: Roderick Edwards scored 20 points as McClymonds (7-6) won this tough consolation game that was never separated by more than six points. Allan Guei had 20 and Anthony January 19 for Compton (3-9).
Bishop O'Dowd 68, Yale Secondary 54: All-Tournament selection Brandon Ashley (see feature) was as good as advertised with 32 points and 16 rebounds as O'Dowd (6-3) cruised to victory over its Canadian rival, which got 14 points by Marek Klassen and 13 each from Nakai Luyken and Matt Letkeman. Jordan Barton had 12 and James Thomas 11 for the Dragons.
MVP - Kyrie Irving (St. Patrick)
Derrick Gordon (St. Patrick)
Michael Gilchrist (St. Patrick)
Jahii Carson (Mesa)
Brandon Ashley (Bishop O'Dowd)
Allen Crabbe (Price)
Alex Varner (Eisenhower)
Roy Gordan (Leuzinger)
Grant Jerrett (Lutheran)
Pierson Williams (Taft)
Dominique Dunning (Centennial)
Khion Sankey (Newark Memorial)
Kendall Andrews (Newark Memorial)
La Costa Canyon 50, Los Osos 48
La Costa Canyon has all the pieces. A terrific point guard in James McCann (13 points). A dominating 6-foot-10 big man in Dennis Kramer (12 points, 10 rebounds). And one of the top sophomores in the country, 6-6 wing Matt Shrigley (15 points).
But those pieces were being shredded by one of the state's top senior guards Kendall Williams, a 6-4 senior who had nada in the first half but exploded for 21 points in the second.
"We had no answer," La Costa Canyon coach David Cassaw.
So, with La Costa leading 49-48 with five seconds left, when Williams decided to take a long 3-pointer against the 5-10 McCann, Cassaw said: "I took a giant sigh of relief."
Williams had drilled four long 3s in the second half, but as Cassaw said: "I'd rather him take that than go to the basket."
The shot hit the front of the rim, La Costa rebounds and after a free throw and halfcourt heave, the Marvericks improved to 13-0 and appear a legitimate San Diego threat to the Southern California Division I playoff party at the end of hte season.
"We have a lot to clean up," said Cassaw, whose team has played nine games in 13 days. "We can be sharper. We need the practice. But sure, we'll take 13-0 any day of the week."
Los Osos (10-3) never quite recovered from a nightmarish second quarter when it scored just five oints and fell behind 28-18 at halftime. Williams, who said his recruitment is wide open, was no where to be found. He averages 24.9 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists.
He finished with four rebounds and no assists.
"I have no excuses for the first half," Williams said. "They were sagging way off me and my teammates were open so I passed."
Asked about shooting the 3-pointer rather than going at McCann, Williams said: "Looking back I probably should have gone at him. But it felt good when it left my hand. I would shoot it again from that spot if I had a chance to do it again."
Khalil Kelley had 10 points and six rebounds for Los Osos, which was outrebounded 44-29 but committed just six turnovers.
Simi Valley 75, The Rock 49
Birmingham 49, Roosevelt 42
James Logan 60, Huntington Beach 51
Campbell Hall 57, Windward 54
Miramonte 62, Oakland 46
Los Alamitos 48, Long Beach Jordan 46
St. Joseph Notre Dame 70, Foothills Christian 62
MVP - James McCann (La Costa Canyon)
Dennis Kramer (La Costa Canyon)
Kendall Williams (Los Osos)
Chaparral 74, Marantha 50
Greg Leslie, a 6-8 point guard, exploded for 35 points including five 3-pointers as Chaparral of Temecula rolled to its 14th straight victory this season without a loss against the very thin Marantha Christia squad, which got 27 points from Chen Cai.
Chaparral used a 21-10 run to start the game and was really never threatened from there.
Third place: Desert Vista 57, Yale Secondary 49
Francis Parker 66, San Diego Cathedral 48
Washington Prep 83, Folsom 67
Cienga 75, Community Charter 66
Mayfair 62, La Cathedral 56
MVP - Greg Leslie (Chaparral)
Xavier Johnson (Chaparral)
Chen Cai (Marantha)
Vista Del Lago (Folsom) 72, College Park (Texas) 52
Hayden Lescault, a 6-4 senior guard, scored 22 points, demarcus Wilson had 12 and Jaqyai Wilson 10 as Vista Del Lago ended the game on a 28-13 run to break open a close championship game and improve to 13-1.
Adam Rowe had 18 points for College Park, which dropped to 14-8.
Third place: Poway 69, Brea Olinda 39
Carlsbad 49, Ponderosa 42
Santa Margarita 51, Rancho Bernardo 50
Tesoro 62, Catalina Foothills 61
Ribet Academy 65, Cowichan 59
Temecula Valley 66, RBV 42
MVP - Hayden Lescault (Vista Del Lago)
Adam Rowe (College Park)
Torrey Pines 63, St. Mary’s-Stockton 58
After star Torrey Pines sophomore Joe Rahon went down with season-ending ACL tear, no one could have anticipated this. Not 12-1. Not a MaxPreps Holiday Classic division championship.
OK, so once the injury occurred, the coaching staff moved the Falcons from the top to lowest division. But Torrey Pines won three games over over-matched opponents by 24, 25 and 20 points before Wednesday’s victory over a competitive, evenly-matched team.
The Falcons got 21 points from Division MVP Nick Kerr, 16 points and eight assists from All-Tournament point guard Max Heller and 10 points by Jesse Neugarten. All three top scorers are juniors.
“No way,” Torrey Pines starting point guard Heller when asked if he thought this was possible. “The day we found out Joe was going to be out for the year I called Nick and we talked about picking up the slack. We all needed to do it as a group and we have.
“We knew we could still have a great season. But 12-1?”
Heller just shook his head.
This was a skitzophrentic affair with Torrey Pines jumping to a 20-6 lead after the first quarter. The second quarter the Falcons managed just five points and St. Mary’s, which got a combined 23 points from John Smith, Sean Fenner and Alex Simmons, closed to 25-21.
The Falcons maintained a 4-to-10 point lead the rest of the way.
All-State wide receiver Josh Harper earned All-Tournament honors for the Rams, who dropped to 7-6. He had just eight points.
St. Mary’s kept coming strong but the Falcons held them off due largely to Kerr, who was 10-for-10 at the line.
Third place: Cowichan 65, La Jolla Country Day 53
La Jolla 65, Westview 40
Ironwood Ridge 68, Fairfax 45
Flintridge Prep 74, Temescal Canyon 64
Palm Desert 64, Yucipa 48
Rim of the World 59, Bakersfield Christian 58
Upland 75, St. Joseph-Santa Maria 65
MVP - Nick Kerr (Torrey Pines)
Max Heller (Torrey Pines)
Keaton Burlington (St. Mary's)
Three-point shooting contest
In the first-ever 3-point shooting contest at the tournament, Centennial (Corona) senior Willy Ligon won with 37 points over Maranatha Christian post Chen Cai with 34. More than 30 players from throughout the tournament competed in the contest that was held at Torrey Pines High School during halftime of numerous National Division games.