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Miller: Nothing beats game where heart is the star
ANAHEIM – He turned to me just before tipoff Saturday and said he has the best job at the Register.
Sure, I thought, you don’t have to go to Angels games and listen to C.J. Wilson’s explanation following each of his starts.
I’ve worked with Steve Fryer long enough to know he has an undying heart, a relentless passion and an endless supply of baloney.
I love the guy, understand, and the fact he writes with such caring and compassion about high school sports makes those of us who work at the Register almost as lucky as those of you who read the Register.
But Fryer can lay it on a little thick at times, and I figured he couldn’t really mean that being a prep writer in Orange County is the best job.
Then I watched the boys basketball team from Canyon High make a miracle happen at Honda Center – an honest-to-goodness, impossibly possible comeback from beyond being beaten – and I’ll never doubt Fryer again.
In the past year or so, I’ve been to the Winter Olympics, the college football national title game and the Super Bowl, and none of them featured anything as magical as what a bunch of anonymous teenagers from Anaheim just did.
We are approaching another brilliant episode of March Madness, right? Sorry, but the NCAA Tournament simply can not produce a game any more astounding than the Comanches’ 103-98 double-overtime victory over Lawndale for the CIF-SS Division 2AA championship.
It’s just not possible – physically, emotionally, maybe even mathematically.
“I’m in shock,” Canyon coach Nate Harrison said. “This has got to be one of the greatest games in CIF history. You dream about it, right? You see these things on TV. You dream about it. All these guys have that (memory) now. This game will be the game they talk about with their grandkids.”
And those grandkids – two generations removed – still won’t believe it. That’s not enough time to piece back together something this ridiculous.
At one point, Lawndale led by 28 points, 61-33. Entering the fourth quarter, the difference was still 22 points, 69-47.
The game was over in every conceivable way but officially.
Lawndale has two players listed at 6-foot-10 – Chimezie Metu, who will play at USC, and Brodricks Jones, who will play at San Diego State.
Canyon’s best player, Nick Anderson, hasn’t signed to play in college, mostly because he’s still waiting for scholarship offers.
Before the game was five minutes old, both Metu and Jones had dunked violently, hanging on the rim long enough to ensure they didn’t come down on top of any Comanches bodies strewn below. For much of the afternoon, Metu was guarded by Canyon’s Avery Jones, who is 6-foot.
“This kind of thing doesn’t happen,” said Anderson, who had 37 points and 11 assists and yet, somehow, even more impact than that. “I’m sure everybody who was a part of that game is in shock. Whoever was watching it, they couldn’t believe it.”
Suddenly, with the arrival of the fourth quarter, Canyon started making shots – Anderson, reserve Justin Trias, a 3-pointer by Chandler Dignam, a kid who, because of an inadvertent poke early in the game, was playing one-eyed – and pressuring Lawndale’s players so tightly that the teams had to be sharing sweat.
The Comanches were so good they managed to speed up both teams, the Cardinals coming unhinged as the Canyon fans – led by their beautifully insane student section – only added to the heat.
Lawndale had superior athletic ability, height and depth. All Canyon had was heart. And belief – somehow, for some reason – flatly ruthless belief.
“It’s not even processing right now for me,” said Trias, who finished with 18 points after having only two through three quarters. “It’s just … still … I’m still in shock, speechless.”
At several points during a run that saw Canyon erase its entire 22-point fourth-quarter deficit in 5:45, various Comanches could be seen smiling and laughing, catching glances of one another and struggling to contain their bubbling faith and the anticipation it was producing.
The players’ reactions were real and raw, as genuine as the stunned looks that could be spotted everywhere else around Honda Center.
“We were just getting hyped,” Anderson explained. “If a smile cracked on our face, it’s just because we knew we had a chance to win the game, there was hope. That’s exactly what happened. We had hope.”
They sure did, even as so many of the rest of us – as it related to Canyon’s chances for most of this game – had nope.
“Once we watch it (again), it’s just going to be like surreal, you know,” Anderson said. “We came back. We never quit. It’s amazing.”
Amazing? Nick, it was more than that, more than amazing on a day when, thanks to some crazy kids from Canyon, a bunch of believers who just didn’t know any better, I had the privilege of sharing the best job at the Register.
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