The 75th season of the Al Locke Youth Basketball League came to a wild finish as the five games were decided a combined total of 21 points. All six teams qualify for the playoffs allowing every player a chance to play in a playoff game. It was obvious that many of the players saved their best performances for the playoffs.
In the opening game of the quarterfinal round, the third seed Celtics faced the sixth seed Pistons. Historically, this matchup has usually produced close games and this game was no exception. The game was tied at halftime at 20. Then, the Celtics went on a 12-2 run in the third quarter leading to a 44-31 victory. Billy Stickney and Devin Ciampi each scored 13 points while Anthony Alterio added 10 points. Timmy Tso continued his torrid 3 point shooting, adding 2 more treys for 6 points. Matt McAllister finished the scoring for the Celts with 2 points. However, Matt’s presence was more felt on the defensive end, blocking shots, grabbing rebounds, and making steals. First year players Jaden Brito-White and Henry Huang played solid defense for the Celts. Caleb Dolcius has one of his strongest games of the season, leading the Pistons with 11 points. Always steady Kevin Luo added 8 points. Tenzin Dorjee scored 4 points in addition to dishing many assists. Zack Dimaro and Chris Georgoudis each added 3 points for the Pistons. Mark Marignetti scored 2 points on a great outside shot, tying the game at that point. Solid performances were turned in by Jeremiah Kakeeto, Darryl Ulysse, and Klayton Thomas.
In the second quarterfinal game, the fourth seed Heat played the red hot fifth seed Thunder. The Thunder started very strong behind Jordie Roberts (19 points, 12 in the first half) and built a 27-19 halftime lead. Not to be outdone, the Heat stormed back with 33 second half points, led by Xavier Serrano’s 19 points (12 in the second half). The Thunder prevailed in the end with a hard fought 56-51 victory. Darius Phillippe continued his hot streak, scoring 10 points, grabbing many rebounds, and diving after numerous loose balls. Giovanni Darvil also scored 10 points including a couple key hoops in the fourth quarter. Nick Sargent had another solid game and finished with 7 points. Nahom Daniel also had 7 points but the highlight of his game was his control of the offense from his point guard position. Jia Wu rounded out the scoring with a key 3 pointer as the Thunder built their first quarter lead. First year players Hakeem Jean Baptiste and Wesley Johnson had strong games as well. Raushad Moore of the Heat continued his season of strong performances, scoring 14 points and collecting several rebounds. Eddy Vincent added 6 points while playing tough defense. Teammate Ryan Cole added 5 points. Rounding out the scoring for the Heat were Nicholas Penha and AJ Pinckney with 3 points apiece and Giovanni Hudson with a key free throw and solid defensive work. Louis Barrasso was seen hustling all over the court playing tough defense and setting picks for his teammates.
The Warriors and Thunder kicked off the semifinal round with a very exciting one point game. Led by Cesar Kembo (22 points, 14 in the first half), the Warriors built a 31-16 halftime lead. The Thunder, like they have done all season, never gave up, and outscored the Warriors 27-13 in the second half. The Warriors held on for a 44-43 victory as the potential tying shot bounced off the rim twice before falling to the side. Christian Monahan-Dasilva and Shaldup Paljor each scored 7 points for the Warriors. Jarrett Pomare scored 5 points and Tavon Lashley added 3 points to round out the scoring. Tyler Martineau was a force on the boards on both ends of the court. Jordie Roberts led the scoring attack for the Thunder with 24 points. Nahom Daniel added 9 points, 8 during the second half comeback. Once again, Darius Phillippe’s contribution to the team’s performance far outweighed his 5 points. Highlighting his performance was his demonstration of court sense, calling a timeout in the last minute of the game after diving for a loose ball and ensuring possession for the Thunder. Giovanni Darvil added 4 points and Hakeem Jean Baptiste hit a key free throw to round out the Thunder scoring. The trio of Wesley Johnson, Nick Sargent and Jia Wu all played well in the game for the Thunder
The second game was certainly no less exciting as the Celtics and Lakers battled to another one point game. The Celtics built a 22-11 first half lead as Billy Stickney scored 8 of his 12 points in the half and Matt McAllister scored all 8 of his points in the half. The Lakers came storming back in the second half, outscoring the Celts 25-13 and holding on for a 36-35 victory. Chrono Washington led the Lakers with 19 points and, more importantly, excellent floor leadership skills. The Lakers had balanced scoring all season and that continued into the playoffs. Niko Bucchierri scored five points, grabbed some rebounds, and helped with the Lakers’ menacing full court press. Anthony Burnett scored 4 points. Mohammed Walleed nailed a key three pointer in the first half keeping the Lakers within striking distance. Steve MacDonald was also a key player in the full court press and added 2 points. Tenzin Shakya was a key element of the Lakers’ ability to break the Celtics press and added 2 points. Walter Analetto added a key free throw late in the game but his physical presence in the lane had Celtics’ shooters altering their shots all game. Juan Ortega and Ari Cohen played key supporting roles in the victory. For the Celtics, Weekendsen Richard displayed one of the strongest defensive games seen all season and added 6 points. Anthony Alterio added 4 points to go with many rebounds. To nobody’s surprise, Timmy Tso nailed another three point shot down the stretch for the Celts. Devin Ciampi scored 2 points while playing tough defense and helping with the offensive flow. Mike Mills, Henry Huang, and Jaden Brito White played solid backup roles for the Celts.
Those who felt that the final game could not live up to the excitement level of the semifinal games were soon proven wrong. The game between the Lakers and Warriors started with a ceremonial first tip tossed up by Mayor Gary Christenson. The mayor is a longtime supporter and fan of the Al Locke League. This game was also decided by one point and was the second highest scoring game of the season. The Lakers started strong, building leads of 21-8 in the first quarter and 34-23 at halftime. The Warriors came roaring back, outscoring the Lakers 36-26 in the second half. In the end, the Lakers outlasted the Warriors comeback and won the game 60-59. The Lakers were led by their high scoring duo of Mozell Johniken (22 points) and Chrono Washington (18 points). Cesar Kembo led the Warriors balanced attack with 19 points, 15 during the second half comeback. In perhaps his strongest game of the year, Anthony Burnett scored 11 points and dominated in the paint. Rounding out the scoring for the Lakers were Tenzin Shakya with 4 points, Walter Analetto with 3 points and Juan Ortega with 2 points. It has been said that offense wins games and defense wins championships. That axiom proved true as the Lakers may not have won the game without the defensive efforts of Niko Bucchierri, Ari Cohen, Steve MacDonald, and Mohammed Walleed. The Warriors had no shortage of star performers in this game. Christian Monahan-Dasilva scored 14 points while Shaldup Paljor has a season high 10 points. Tavon Lashley added 6 points while Tyler Martineau and Jarrett Pomare each added 5 points. CJ Tatarouns and Jesus Urbina were key role players for the Warriors.