The first of one of Southern California's top league showdowns between Gardena Serra and Bishop Montgomery in Torrance certainly showed the hot competition between the top two teams in the Del Rey League and the CIF-Southern Section Division IVAA.
The Knights entered the game with a 16-2 record, having won two prestigious preseason tournaments at Westchester and Mission Prep in San Luis Obispo, but suffered their second loss of the season in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Classic to Riverside J.W. North 64-54 on Monday at Price Christian in South Los Angeles.
The Cavaliers were getting things going after slipping past a very good Cantwell-Sacred Heart team from Montebello 55-52 last Saturday at La Salle High in Pasadena.
In the end, it was the IVAA's No. 2 ranked Serra that held on for a 71-70 win over No. 1 Bishop Montgomery.
The game was a see-saw battle as the Knights held a 21-14 lead after the first quarter, but the Cavaliers, who improved to 13-6, came back to outscore Bishop Montgomery 20-11 in the second period to grab a 34-32 halftime lead.
From there, it was a see-saw battle as the Knights, behind three three-point baskets by Stephen Thompson, Jr., came back for a 56-54 lead through three quarters.
The final period started with a three-pointer from Ron Freeman as Serra led throughout most of the quarter. Bishop Montgomery tied the game at 68 with 1:49 left when Long Beach State-bound Justin Bibbins passed to Christian Oshita who scored on a layup.
Serra, though, came back to lead for good when Jason Richardson fed to Freeman for a layup.
Tavrion Dawson added a free throw to give the Cavaliers a 71-68 lead.
With 27 seconds remaining, Bibbins was fouled as he made both free throws.
After Serra missed, the Knights rebounded. Bibbins attempted a three-pointer shortly before the buzzer and the Cavaliers drew a sigh of relief.
"It feels good," Richardson, who led Serra with 24 points, said. "We got to keep practicing hard. We're continuing to improve."
Freeman, who has already signed to play basketball at Cal State Fullerton next fall, added 21 points, while Dawson chipped in 10.
"Bishop Montgomery is a very good team," Serra head coach Dwan Hurt said. "They are very well coached. We wanted to use our height advantage. We did a good job and kept fighting."
The Knights have no player over 6-feet-5, while the Cavalies have 6-foot-8 senior Dawson and two others at 6-7. Freeman is 6-6.
Bishop Montgomery thrived on three-pointers, making 10 of them, including four by Thompson, who contributed 14 points.
Bibbins led the Knights with 19 points.
Serra hosts Playa del Rey St. Bernard in another Del Rey game Friday at 5 p.m. before visiting Fairfax in the Fairfax State Preview Classic Saturday at the same time.
The Knights travel to La Salle in Pasadena Friday at 7 p.m.
In a key Pioneer League game at North Torrance on Wednesday, the Saxons used their quickness to down defending league champion Lawndale 95-77.
North also played a strong defense forcing 26 turnovers on the Cardinals.
Adam Swanier led the Saxons, who have been known for their fast-break offense used by head coach Luke Duperron, with a game-high 21 points and 10 rebounds. Mo Nwodili added 15 points Koh Flippen chipped in 15 points, including his own 7-0 run to start the second quarter that gave North lead for good.
North, which improved to 2-1 in league and 16-4 overall, will host an improved El Segundo team, which upset Torrance 55-52 on Wednesday at El Segundo, Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Lawndale, which is 2-1 in league, hopes to rebound as it hosts South Torrance at the same time.
Redondo keeps rolling in the Bay League with a big win over Mira Costa 64-44 last Friday and host West Torrance 72-44 on Tuesday.
The Sea Hawks are still without leading scorer Ian Fox, who is out with an ankle injury, but West transfer Terrell Carter and sophomore Leland Green has been shining for Redondo, which is 16-3 overall and 3-0 in league.
The Sea Hawks visit Palos Verdes, which ended its 22-game Bay League losing streak with a 55-48 home win over Lawndale Leuzinger on Jan. 14 before falling at hill rival Rolling Hills Estates Peninsula 51-35 on Tuesday, Friday at 7:30 p.m.
A key Bay League game will be Peninsula at Mira Costa, who are both expected to be other key Bay contenders, on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Leuzinger, which is rebuilding after several successful seasons, hosts West at the same time.
In a key Bay girls' game on Tuesday at West, Redondo recorded its second straight Bay win after opening on Jan. 14 with a 49-46 home loss to Peninsula, with a big 56-40 win over the league favorite Warriors, also top ranked in the Southern Section Division IIA.
Keying the Lady Sea Hawks, who improved to 13-6 overall, was Meghan Penueta who made three consecutive three-pointers to start the fourth quarter. Peneuta led Redondo with 19 points, 13 of those in the final period.
Hayley Tanabe sparked West (18-3, 1-1) with 13 points, including three three-pointers.
Redondo visits Palos Verdes, while the Warriors are at Leuzinger in 7:30 p.m. league games.
Snyder's South Bay Basketball Rankings:
Boys: 1. Redondo, 2. Westchester, 3. Serra, 4. Bishop Montgomery, 5. Mira Costa, 6. North Torrance, 7. Lawndale, 8. Inglewood, 9. Narbonne, 10. Culver City.
Girls: 1. Serra, 2. Narbonne, 3. West Torrance, 4. Bishop Montgomery, 5. Peninsula, 6. Redondo, 7. Culver City, 8. Mira Costa, 9. San Pedro, 10. Inglewood.