What we learned: MLK Dream Showcase
Lincoln High has played host to the MLK Dream Showcase for several years, and Jeff Harper-Harris & Co. put on an excellent event on the weekend we stop to reflect on the life contributions of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.
The event featured 10 boys games combined on Saturday and Monday, with the marquee game happening Saturday night between the hosts and fellow Division 2 contender.
The Hornets, led by 16 points from 5-10 senior guard Manny Barnett, prevailed 58-49, further cementing themselves as one of the favorites in the division.
What else did we learn from the weekend? Here are some observations.
Lincoln's balance shines in win
The Hornets have been on a hot streak since the second game of the season, winning 19 of 20 games during that stretch. While the team has a potent dynamic duo in juniors Kyelin King and Derrion Manson, they're at their best when the entire ensemble is on. Saturday night's win was a glimpse of that, as the leading scorer was the underrated Barnett, and fellow senior Jamier Sykes - a smooth shooting 6-2 combo guard - scored 12 in the first half. Junior sharpshooter Sebastian Flores and Sykes younger brother, 6-0 junior Jamarion, also contributed to the win. The Hornets haven't had 6-4 sophomore Jair Benjamin during the recent stretch (injury), but if he can return to the lineup, they're that much tougher.
Scripps Ranch will be fine
While the Falcons never found a consistent offensive rhythm in the loss, that says more about Lincoln's defensive capability than Scripps Ranch's scoring prowess. Since the addition of sit-out transfers Kai Brown (6-0 G) and Micah Brickner (6-5+ F), the Falcons have won 6 of 9 and are the co-favorites in the Eastern League, the city conference's second toughest. Brown (18 points) provides them with a scorer who can knock down shots off the catch and get his own off the bounce, and pairs well with fellow guards Aubrey Thompson, Jona Dawson and Jaiden Schube. Brickner can be a physical force in the paint, but needs consistency.
Jayden Gray makes FOTY case
Victory Christian delivered a second half knockout in its 84-63 rout of University City in one of the earlier contests. And it was 6-1 freshman Jayden Gray who made the biggest statement. Gray has had an exceptional season for the Knights, averaging over 19 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists, but he was the best player on the floor in this game, notching 33 points and 10 assists in an efficient effort that saw him finish time and again through contact against the Centurions. In the race for freshman of the year, Gray hasn't played in as many high profile games as his closest competitor, 6-3 San Ysidro G Ty Ingram. But he's producing at a clip that you can't ignore.
Centurions miss their rim protector
While watching the Centurions get repeatedly gashed for layups and paint points, the reason why dawned on me quickly: Ben Gavani, the 6-6 junior forward, was noticeably absent with the flu.
In Gavani, the Centurions have an invaluable rim protector and rebounder who allows the team's other taller, perimeter oriented talents to play on the wing. Without him, those guys - 6-5 wing Jaeden Robley, 6-4 sophomore Dylan Griffin and 6-4 senior Tre Nelson are forced to fill the void, with uneven results.
On the subject of Robley, who matched Gray's scoring total with 33, he did it on less than 5 combined dribbles, a very impressive feat for a high school player. Keep an eye out for Griffin, an athletic wing who gets better with each game.
Ramona's duo is locked in
With Victory Christian currently topping the CIF D3 standings, Ramona has also been one of the section's top D3 teams. They showed why in their 68-46 win over Mira Mesa, which wasn't that close.
Ramona's dynamic duo of 6-2 senior guard Dalton Norvell and 6-5 junior swingman Chase Newman combined for more than half of the team's points, helping the Bulldogs amass a 35-point lead before garbage time.
In this game, the Bulldogs got help from their supporting cast, including a combined 18 points from senior Carson Ward and sophomore shooter Colin Dillon.
Mira Mesa has a freshman to watch in 5-10 guard Diego Ortiz, who was the lone bright spot for the team with 14 points.