Edison's Randall Walker, left, and Nate Matthews have led a strong effort by the Chargers that has helped them reach today's CIF-SS Division 2AA title game against Ayala.

Edison's Matthews, Walker are 'all in' for CIF-SS final


HUNTINGTON BEACH – Go ahead. Tell the Edison basketball team it’s not as good as last year’s team.

You won’t get an argument.

“I feel that last year’s team was more athletic,” said Edison junior guard Nate Matthews.

Another Edison junior guard, Randall Walker, said, “Last year’s team was more talented.”

So how did this year’s Edison team duplicate what last year’s team did, which is to advance to a CIF-Southern Section championship game?

Matthews and Walker are perfect examples what made this back-to-back finals appearance happen. Edison coach Rich Boyce praises this season’s Chargers for its high level of hard work and desire. Matthews and Walker, he said, have led the effort that brought Edison to Saturday’s CIF-SS Division 2AA championship game. The Chargers will play Ayala of Chino Hills at 8:30 p.m.

“The reason they’re so good is because they work hard at it,” Boyce said. “Guys like Randall and Nate put so much extra time into it.”

Walker, 6-foot-2, is the Chargers’ scoring leader at 21 points a game. The 6-3 Matthews is second at 19 points a game.

Both are outstanding defensive players. They take great pride in that.

“Defense is all about heart,” Walker said. “That’s what we’ve been taught by Coach Boyce.”

Boyce generally assigns Matthews to guard the opposing team’s best offensive player. Matthews enjoys that challenge.

“I love playing ‘D,’” Matthews said. “That’s my thing, and that’s what Randall likes doing, too. Defense wins games, in my opinion, and I want to win.”

That defense is going to have to be at its best to beat Ayala, which is 29-3 and seeded No. 1 in the division. Edison (24-7) is the No. 2 seed.

“They look like a solid team,” Matthews said of Ayala. “Coach says we’ll have to be strong on defense and play together. We can’t have somebody falling asleep on defense, and we’ll have to knock down our shots.”

Walker is impressed by the Bulldogs’ speed.

“They score a lot of their points on their fastbreak,” Walker said. “They’re a good defensive team, too.”

Matthews and Walker were reserves on last year’s Edison team that lost to Foothill in the 1A championship game. The Chargers are 0-3 in CIF-SS boys basketball finals, including a loss to Mater Dei in the 1A game in 1994.

Matthews and Walker have been teammates since they were 7 years old when they first joined forces on an AAU team. Boyce has seen them grow into players who can play college basketball.

“Randall can score at will,” Boyce said. “He’s a complete package. When we played San Clemente, San Clemente had a five- or six-point lead on us in the fourth quarter, so we put Randall in the low post; he scored the next 10 points for us and we won.”

Matthews’ versatility impresses the coach, too.

“Our coaching staff marvels at him,” Boyce said. “On defense, he’s chasing his guy around, going through screens and everything else. But at the end of the game he looks like the freshest guy on the court.”

If you hear a player’s voice coming from the Edison huddle during a timeout, it likely will be Matthews’.

“He’s the one firing up the other guys, yelling ‘let’s go, let’s go,’” Boyce said.

As much as their coach appreciates them, Matthews and Walker have that appreciation for each other.

“Nate’s like our Draymond Green,” said Walker, referring to the Golden State Warriors’ forward who is known for his ability to guard any player at any position. “He’s always working hard and he really hates losing. He will always do whatever’s in his power to not let us lose a game.”

Matthews is equally inspired by Walker.

“He has a great work ethic,” Matthews said. “Just the other night, he and I made a plan to get into the gym for some extra work so we asked the coach if he’d open it up for us. It’s fun to work out with Randall.”

It’s that sort of togetherness that permeates the entire team and, perhaps, makes up for any talent deficiency.

When the Chargers break out of a huddle, Matthews gives the “1-2-3” countdown and the team then shouts, “Family!”

All of the Chargers, Matthews said, are “all in” – a poker reference meaning all of a player’s chips are being bet on a particular hand. The poker player is “all in.”

“At the beginning of the season,” he said, “before a game we huddled up and I told my teammates, ‘all hands in’ and everybody put their hands together in the middle. I said ‘If we’re going to go all the way, then everybody needs to be all in.’”

The Chargers are all in for the CIF-SS finals. Again.

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