Long Beach Poly opened up the King Cotton Holiday Classic championship game Saturday night with an 18-0 run against the Jacksonville Titans before Mykel Moore finally hit a jumper with 2:58 remaining in the opening quarter to put Jacksonville on the board. The fast start helped to lead the Jackrabbits to an 81-69 victory.
“This is amazing. We are going to go down in history,” said Long Beach Poly head coach Shelton Diggs. “This is a wonderful tournament that is only going to get bigger, so for us to be the first team to win it when they brought it back will put us down in the history books.”
After the fast start and score by Jacksonville, the Jackrabbits then ended the quarter on a 7-0 run to enjoy a 25-2 advantage at the end of one.
“We have a lot of really good teams in California, and we are used to playing in environments like this,” said Diggs. “We have been playing against teams like Jacksonville, so we knew we had to come out fast right out of the gate. Making shots always makes you look a little bit better, but we are built on our defense, and they played very well that quarter.”
Jacksonville was able to get a little life back in the second quarter, outscoring the Jackrabbits 24-22 with both teams shooting 60 percent in the paint. However, the Jackrabbits still had enough of a lead to enjoy a 47-26 lead at the half.
Tournament MVP Justin Rene led Poly with 16 points, five rebounds, and a steal at the half, while Devonte Davis led Jacksonville with eight points and three rebounds.
The Titans tried to get a fast start in the third quarter with a quick score from Joe Phillips, but the Jackrabbits went on an 8-0 run over the next 2:43 before the Titans score four more points. Momentum began to shift back to the Jackrabbits with 4:43 remaining in the third when Jacksonville’s Mykel Moore was hit with a technical foul following a personal foul.
Rene hit three out of four behind the charity stripe, and went on to out-score Jacksonville 21-18 in the third period, enjoying a 68-44 lead.
The Titans were able to outscore the Jackrabbits 25-13 in the final period, but it wasn’t enough to be able to mount a comeback as the Jackrabbits held on for the victory.
Long Beach Poly shot 47.7 percent in the paint for the game, in addition to shooting 33.3 percent from behind the three-point line, and hitting 81 percent of their free throws while Jacksonville shot 45 percent in the paint for the game, 18.2 percent from behind the three-point line, and 42.9 percent from the charity stripe.
Tournament MVP Justin Rene finished the game with 30 points, eight rebounds, one blocked shot, and a steal in 24 minutes of play.
“It is great for him,” said Diggs. “He works so hard and puts in the work. All of the work he has done is starting to come to fruition.”