Downey clobbers Warren

DOWNEY - From down-and-out to sneaking in under the radar, Downey basketball is now looking at the possibility of another surprising playoff berth for the second year in a row after dismantling rival Warren, 72-38, Wednesday night.After a crucial road victory at Lynwood last Friday, the Vikings kept the momentum rolling with tons of help from forward Matt Taylor, who continues to play like a man on a mission after his one-game suspension for throwing an elbow versus a Paramount player two Fridays ago. Taylor, who scored 19 points against Lynwood, again rung his opponents' bell, this time to the tune of 21 points and nine rebounds. At the half, he led all scorers with 13 points, most coming in the paint. "Matt [Taylor]'s just a very good player," said Downey head coach Larry Shelton. "I know he felt bad about what happened [against Paramount], getting thrown out of a key game for us. But Matt's a great kid. He was just playing hard." Downey's other forward, Matt Black, also had a good night, scoring 13 points and pulling down 13 rebounds. The two Matts have been a consistent force all season for the Vikings, usually leading the team in scoring and rebounding. Together, they accounted for more than half of Downey's points and close to a third of their rebounds against the Bears. "Matt [Taylor] and Matt [Black] are the cornerstones of the team," Shelton said. "They're both 3-year-varsity players. They carried us last year after I had to get rid of a lot of our starters due to disciplinary reasons. We were a young, inexperienced team last year and this year they have been the leaders. I can't say enough about them." The Vikings led from start to finish Friday and were never threatened. After the first quarter, the Vikings were up nine points. They gave up only 10 points per quarter after that. Just a week ago, Shelton said he didn't want to talk about the playoffs. He's changed his tune. "We are [talking playoffs], I'm not going to kid you," Shelton said. "I think our win over Lynwood the other night energized us and I'm really, really excited about tonight." Talking is one thing, but getting into the playoffs is another, and Shelton said he knows they are not a lock just yet. But they're getting close, and a win over Gahr last night would be huge for them (results were unavailable at press time). If Downey does not get a wild card berth for the playoffs, they can still be proud of helping to keep Warren winless in league play. Coming into Wednesday's game, the Bears were last in the San Gabriel Valley League, never losing by less than 18 points. Playing against Downey was no different, with the team's shooting slump continuing. Warren head coach Brent Willis said he liked what he saw from his team in the first half, including being physical and playing good on-ball defense. It was his team's lack of effort in the second half that bothered him. "I thought we got out-played, out-hustled," Willis said. "That's not my style of basketball and that's not my program and I think the boys know that. That's what disappoints them the most. I think they know that's not the way we want to play at Warren anymore." The Bears had two players scoring in double digits with forward Kareem Aly and center Manny Sterling scoring 11 apiece. Warren also kept the rebounding margin closer than the previous game against Downey. However, Warren received very little production from its bench and the team struggled throughout the second half defensively, turning a reasonably close game into another blowout. When asked if his comments two weeks ago about gunning for Downey may have backfired and revved up the wrong team, Willis rejected the idea. "You better guarantee, 100 percent, 5-star lock it, we're going to come with that mentality whenever I'm coaching this team," he said. "It's not going to be soft, it's not going to be cozy. It's going to be up in your face, it's going to be tight, it's going to be hot, it's going to be rough and that's the way basketball is supposed to be played." Willis' 2-year tenure has been anything but soft and cozy. With the loss against Downey, Warren is now 1-18 in their last 19 league games, and going into last night's game at Dominguez, it was looking like a possible 0-10 in conference play this year. "That is unacceptable and I'll accept responsibility for that," Willis said, after comparing a trip to Dominguez to visiting a lion's den with a pork chop tied around your neck. "1-19 is not a record you should have in a conference regardless of how tough the conference may be." But ever the optimist, he believes big things are coming Warren's way in the years to come and that the Bears will be a player in SGVL play soon enough. "I know what's coming up on the horizon," he said. "People look for instant gratification in high school basketball. You can't look for that in a program after two years under the leadership of a new coach with a different philosophy." ********** Published: February 13, 2009 - Volume 7 - Issue 43

SportsEric Pierce