LA VERNE – There were moments in the second quarter when the Riverside Poly boys basketball team was on the verge of turning its rematch against Damien into a runaway one. And then that lead disappeared.
Poly’s 12-point lead turned into a one-point deficit as Damien closed out the opening half with a run of 23-10. Damien made 8 of 9 shots from the field during that stretch to finish the second quarter with 25 points.
Poly increased the defensive pressure to regain control of the semifinals of The Classic at Damien. The Bears kept the Spartans at four points during the third quarter and pulled away to a 64-56 victory.
Payden White and Chance Stephens scored 24 and 23 points, respectively, to lead the way for the Bears.
Poly (16-1) avenged his only flaw of the season and also gave Damien his first defeat in 17 games. The Bears reached their fourth tournament final and will take on the Centennial (11-1) for the title on Thursday. Centennial beat a ticket to the championship match with a 67-61 victory over Etiwanda earlier in the day.
Wednesday night’s semifinal was close early, but Poly closed the first quarter with an 11-4 run to take a 20-12 lead. White added six points in the second quarter to extend the Bears’ lead to 26-14.
Damien rose, however, when Spivey Word, RJ Smith and Jimmy Oladokun came together to 21 points during the second quarter. Oladokun scored on an outburst and the buzzer to give the Spartans a 37-36 advantage at the break.
White scored a basket to give Poly a 42-41 lead with 2:28 left on the clock in the third quarter, and Stephens added more three points on a one-on-one with 1:08 left of the quarter to push the lead to four points.
Poly clung on to a 49-46 lead with 2:41 left in the fourth quarter, but Issac Williamson drained a 3-pointer to double the lead. The Bears then struck 12 of 14 free throws down the stretch to secure victory.
Smith scored a game-high 26 points to lead Damien. Word had 13 points and Oladokun finished with 11.
Centennial struggled at the offensive end in their match against Etiwanda and faced an early 14-4 deficit with three minutes left of the first quarter. Donovan Dent scored nine points and Jared McCain added five more to trigger a 14-5 run that helped the Huskies reduce the deficit to 19-18 at the end of the quarter.
Centennial closed the first half with an 8-2 run to take a 36-30 lead into the locker room at the break. Devin Williams scored 10 points in the third quarter to help the Huskies push the lead to 56-46 in the final period.
Curtis Williams scored 10 points during the third quarter and added another seven points at the start of the fourth quarter to help Etiwanda draw even at 56 with 5 1/2 minutes left.
Dent struck down a couple of penalty throws to help Centennial regain the lead, and Devin Williams followed with his third 3-pointer of the match to extend the lead to 61-56 with 4:43 left on the clock.
Kwinten Crenshaw lowered a 3-pointer to get Etiwanda back within 63-61 with 1:06 left to play, but that would be the Eagles’ last basket of the game. Dent scored the final four points to seal the Centennials victory.
This is the second time Centennial is advancing to the Platinum Division championship game at The Classic at Damien. The Huskies finished second to Rancho Christian in the 2018 tournament.
Dent finished with 23 points to lead the Centennial, and Devin Williams added 20 points to the Huskies.
Curtis Williams scored 27 points for Etiwanda (10-3) and Quinton Webb finished with 15 points.
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