SAN DIEGO, CA – He took a 10-year hiatus from participating in the San Diego Classic because of the affect club basketball had on his ability to field a competitive team.
However, on Sunday afternoon at Alliant University, Long Beach Poly head coach Carl Buggs re-lived the Jackrabbits 2007 San Diego Classic victory with a second 3A championship after a 50-42 victory over Centennial of Corona in the 33rd edition of the grandmother of all summer girls high school basketball tournaments in California.
Long Beach Poly, with an enrollment of almost 4,500 students, almost always fields a competitive team, but Buggs was circumspect prior to the start of the tournament because he wasn’t sure what he really had on the roster other than 6-2 incoming senior post Ashlee Lewis, and the daughter of his and his wife and assistant Lakeisha, incoming junior 5-9 combo guard Kalaya Buggs.
“We were going to have 10 returners but we lost four, and of the six left only four are here, and one of them has to leave on Saturday,” Buggs said prior to the start of action last Thursday. “We brought five players that were on JV last year so I’m anxious to see what we’ve got.”
What they had was the top big girl in Lewis, and along with Kalaya Buggs, the Jackrabbits had two of the top four players at the San Diego Classic.
In the end, the inside game of Lewis and the outside/inside game of Kalaya Buggs, coupled with some new faces that stepped up big time, overpowered the field in the grueling six-game, four-day event.
Lewis had the bigger numbers but Kalaya Buggs was the floor general and the leader of a defense that prior to the championship game had only given up 25, 33, 15, 27 and 29 points in the first five games. The result is the Poly due were honored as the Girls of Summer San Diego Classic Co-MVP winners.
The championship game against a very talented and young Centennial squad was back and forth the whole first half, but Centennial never had more than a two point lead. With the score tied 21-21 Kalaya Buggs took over and led a 12-0 run that extended into the second half.
After falling behind 33-21 Centennial put together a 10-2 run of its own but 35-31 was the closest Poly let the Huskies get the rest of the game.
Kalaya Buggs finished with 12 points, including an NBA-range three-pointer during the 12-0 run, and eight rebounds. Lewis was in double digit rebounds for all four games the Girls of Summer Caravan covered her, and had her second double-double after going for 10 points and 13 rebounds.
One girl that made a name for herself with stellar play in all four games but particularly in the title-game victory over Centennial was incoming junior Nala Williams. The 5-8 guard, who was one of the JV players from last year Buggs mentioned, had 11 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals, and played great defense. During the 12-0 run she had a three-pointer and got inside for a rebound and a putback for the first basket of the second quarter that gave Poly a 31-21 lead.
Another player that was a solid contributor was Lily Buggs, who according to Lakeisha Buggs has no known relationship to the Buggs coaching clan. In the title game the 5-9 incoming junior had seven points (one three-pointer) seven rebounds and two steals.
The Jackrabbits played better each game as a team after looking disoriented in their first game against Woodcreek-Roseville. They only led 12-10 at halftime thanks to a last second three-pointer by incoming senior Kaci Scott (who left on Saturday) before turning on the vise-grip defense to post a 38-24 victory.
After they had a little trouble in a 36-33 victory over a Clovis team that looks like it will be competitive in CIF Central Section Division I action, the defense got even better against Mayfield of Las Cruces, New Mexico in a 29-15 victory.
In the semifinals is where the size and strength of Poly really showed. Lewis, who has multiple Division I college offers, was unstoppable in the paint and finished with a monster double-double 22 points and 14 rebounds in a convincing 44-29 victory over a very solid local favorite Bonita Vista-Chula Vista. Buggs, added 11 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals.
From not knowing exactly what he had coming to San Diego, Buggs had said after his team made it to the quarterfinals that “from here everything is gravy.”
After winning the 3A title Bugg’s response was “it went from gravy to icing on the cake. Once you get here you may as well go for it.”
“I thought our defense really carried us and the experience of our returnees was huge,” continued Buggs, “They had to step up and make plays and kind of carry the younger ones along. The younger ones had some spot situations where they made some plays too and hopefully that helps build some confidence in them.”
As for the outlook this coming season Buggs had this to say.
“We’ll be competitive, and the fact that we haven’t really been practicing together makes how we did here even better.”
For Centennial the future for head coach Martin Woods and his young Huskies looks bright as well.
Incoming junior combo guard Jayda Curry, who has an offer from San Diego State, showed why some analysts think she is one of the top players from the class of 2021 in the Inland Empire and all of Southern California. She had 14 points in the championship loss to Poly with three three-pointers, including one from NBA range. In a semifinal 57-44 victory over Clovis she set a single game scoring record for a game in the history of the San Diego Classic where media stats have been kept, after Curry went for 33 points (three three-pointers), with eight rebounds, seven steals and six assists.
One of the brightest spots at the San Diego Classic was the emergence of incoming Centennial freshman guard Sydney Summers.
One analyst in attendance who will remain unnamed and that lives in the San Diego area and evaluates AAU boys and college players but decided to check out the girls, had this to say about Summers.
“She has game. Good off the bounce deep range, plays very quiet but with loud skills.”
We saw it pretty much the same. Summers can drive and use either hand to finish, defends, and she can shoot the three ball. In four games she was observed in of the six game Classic, Summers made five three-pointers from NBA range and one from college range. Against Poly Summers hit two NBA treys and the college level three-ball. Against Clovis she had 13 points and seven rebounds with two steals, and her one three-pointer was from NBA range.
Two other players with promise for Woods program next season are incoming senior guard Madison Green and Jayda’s younger sister, incoming sophomore guard Layla Curry.
In the Third-place game Bonita Vista was a 60-45 winner despite incoming junior transfer and CIF San Diego Section Player of the Year Selena Peterson, who comes over from Mount Miguel-Spring Valley, going out in the first half with Bonita Vista leading 24-13 after hitting her chin on the floor.
The 2A title game saw ML King Riverside fall behind by 12 points early and trail 26-18 at the half, but after playing in another tournament all week incoming senior guard Raya Smith came sprinting in from the parking lot just after the start of the second half, and along with standout incoming junior guard Alexis Mead the pair led King to a 51-41 victory over a much bigger Sahuaro of Tucson, Arizona.
Mead finished with 13 points (three three-pointers), four assists, three rebounds and three steals, and Smith added 12 points (three three-pointers) with three steals, all in less than a half.
“Raya barely got here but we held our own all week without her,” remarked King Coach Jesus Martinez.
The 3A Consolation championship fifth-place game was an ugly affair between two top Northern California programs smarting from controversial quarterfinal losses.
Cardinal Newman-Santa Rosa was leading Bonita Vista the entire game and led by one when a questionable foul call with six seconds left gave the local girls three shots and they made two to send Newman to the consolation bracket. Pinewood-Los Altos Hills didn’t play well in its 40-33 quarterfinal loss to Clovis but they shot zero free-throws to 17 for Clovis and that obviously made a big difference.
When the two met it was almost like there was a lid on the rim, particularly for Pinewood in a 29-14 Newman victory.
Pinewood scored the game’s first basket but then Newman went on a 14-0 run and even though the two-time defending San Diego Classic 3A champions and two-time defending CIF Northern Regional Open Division champions cut it to 19-11 at the half, the second half was worse as the Panthers were only able to muster a basket and one free throw in a 20-minute running clock half.
Incoming sophomore guard Reese Searcy had a breakout game for Newman after finishing with a game-high 14 points with one three pointer, three steals and two assists, and her quick feet on defense blanketed the Pinewood shooters.
Senior Christina Bacci made two three-pointers and had seven points. Bacci averaged 17 points for the six games of the Classic including 27 points in an opening win over Crean Lutheran-Irvine where she was 6-of-9 from beyond the arc.
A girl that showed she is going to be one of the top incoming junior defensive guards in the CIF North Coast Section is Aysia Dural. The 5-9 Dural only scored two points but she gave up zero points on defense and had eight rebounds, four steals and three assists.
Another Newman girl that deserves a mention is incoming junior Maria Harris. Harris, who played well at the Classic on offense and defense, and who head coach Monica Mertle says is the team’s “fire girl” was 6-7 on the depth chart as a freshman before losing her home in the Santa Rosa fires and moving away. She’s back living in Santa Rosa and will challenge for playing time.
Of note is Cardinal Newman was missing Anya Choice, and the incoming senior guard will be one of the best in the North Coast Section. Another girl that was missing was incoming 6-1 senior post Elizabeth Chambers, a transfer from now closed Rincon Valley Christian-Santa Rosa.