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Sunny Hills tries to run, gets stopped by Royal

OCVARSITY.COM

SIMI VALLEY — The Sunny Hills boys basketball team ran. All season, on just about every possession, the undersized underdogs ran the ball upcourt and back on defense, and, more often than not, ran their opponent out of the gymnasium.

On Tuesday they ran into Royal of Simi Valley. And they couldn’t keep up.

Sunny Hills lost, 74-62, in the CIF-SS Division 2AA semifinals at Royal High. The Highlanders will face Inglewood in the finals on Saturday.

“That team was really well coached,” Sunny Hills coach John Wooldridge said of Royal. “Their kids were prepared. They took us out of a lot of things. Maybe J.W. North and Summit were more athletic, but this is a better team.”

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The game wasn’t a sprint so much as it was a short marathon, one in which Royal point guard Max McCoy never stopped. He scored a game-high 29 points, seemingly surging his team ahead at every corner.

“He pretty much dictated the game,” Wooldridge said. “He really had his way with us. It was a tough matchup for us without JR (Parker).”

Parker, the Lancers’ No. 2 scorer and starting point guard, was sidelined with a mild concussion suffered during last week’s victory against J.W. North of Riverside. McCoy took advantage, constantly beating his man off the dribble and then either knocking down a jumper, driving for a layup, or dishing to an open teammate in the paint.

McCoy’s three layups during a five-possession span in the fourth quarter halted a potential Lancers rally and extended the Highlanders' lead to 60-51.

The Lancers (25-7) looked a bit out of sync on offense and trailed throughout. They managed to keep the deficit to single digits behind a sprited effort from JJ Parker, who made the rare start in his brother’s absence and scored a team-high 20 points.

“He was just huge for us this year, the perfect sixth man” Wooldridge said. “He really tried to pick up his brother's slack. I’m really proud of him.”

Royal (24-6) is in the midst of its deepest run during Coach Craig Griffin’s tenure.

“I knew we were going to have to play one of our better games,” Griffin said. “It’s the hard work they’ve put in, dedication in practice and film studies.”

The most obvious example of that involved Sunny Hills star senior Martin Kim. He came in averaging 18 points a game but was held to 9 points, as Royal guard Weston Park shadowed Kim the entire night.

“That was his job,” Griffin said. “Don’t let Kim go off on us. Always have a hand up. Don’t give him air space.”

“They weren’t going to allow him to shoot jumpers,” Wooldridge said. “He was going to have to get to the rim.”

The loss concludes Sunny Hills’ deepest run in the section playoffs during Wooldridge’s tenure. The Freeway League champs will find out Sunday whether they’ve been chosen for the state tournament.

“I’m proud of the kids,” Wooldridge said. “They battled tonight and played their butts off. What is it, Game 32? They’ve done that all year for me. It’s sort of bittersweet.”


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