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SoCalHoops CIF-SS Playoff News

CIF-SS I-AA Preview: Eisenhower v. Millikan
@ LB Wilson Tonight--(Feb. 26, 2002)

What: Division I-AA Semifinals
Who: Eisenhower (26-2) vs. Millikan (20-8)
Where: @ Long Beach Wilson H.S
When: 7:30 p.m.

We don't have a lot of time to finish the previews for the semifinals, so we'll just compile some of the stuff from the local papers who cover the two teams involved in this one.  If you need or want more detailed info, browse through the SoCalHoops archives.  Suffice it to say, Eisenhower has been ranked No. 1 or No. 2 with Long Beach Poly all season.  Millikan, is a team which has everyone asking, "where did they come from?"  Most people who follow the Moore League know exactly where the Rams are from and who they case you don't here's what we know and what some others have written about them.

Eisenhower (26-2), which has reached the semifinals the past two seasons, will have to get past yet another Moore league team before they can reach the final, where they might see yet another Moore League representative.  Eisenhower beat Lakewood, the third-place team in the Moore League, in overtime in the quarterfinals. Millikan is the Moore League's No. 2 representative, and Moore champion Long Beach Poly will be playing tonight in the other semifinal against Capistrano Valley at Long Beach City College.   According to those who know, the Eagles must get production from their top three players if they are going to succeed. Johnny Dukes, Cory McJimson and Sean Marshall will all have to produce and produce big to maintain a chance to move on to the State Tournament and the section finals.   Intensity level and focus have been big concerns for the Eagles lately. "Sometimes we get up by seven, eight points, we start coasting," Marshall told the Riverside Press Enterprise.  Asked if he expects focus to be a problem again, Eagles coach Steve Johnson told Press-Enterprise sportswriter Damian Secore, "No, I don't think so at all."

Coach Johnson was also interviewed by the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin and told that paper: "We have to realize we can't just walk over people. We didn't play a real good game Friday. And (Millikan) is well-coached and could present some problems for us matchup-wise."   Eisenhower, top-seeded in the division, was upset by Capistrano Valley in the semifinals last year.

Millikan is an unseeded team which many never figured would make it this far. But following their 47-44 victory over Ayala on Friday, the Rams (20-8) are in a semifinal for the first time since 1991, a season when Millikan advanced to the Division I-AA final and lost to Jordan.  "This is a very exciting time for our basketball program and our school," Millikan coach Kelly San Jose told Ted Kian of the Long Beach Press Telegram.  According to Kian:

San Jose is in just his third season at Millikan program.  Millikan won a total of eight games in the three seasons before his arrival. "We've had some good kids who worked real hard to turn this program around."  The Rams finished second behind Poly in the Moore League this season . . . The Rams appear to be a team of the future since they start three underclassmen, including Marcus Dove, a 6-foot-6 junior swingman who should be among the area's most highly recruited prospects next year. Millikan has steadily improved during the course of the season and appears to be peaking right now, having won 12 of its last 13 games. The Rams will face an Eisenhower squad that has been dominant throughout most of the year, including an early season victory over Poly, which won all 12 of its Moore League games by at least 10 points.  On Friday, though, the Eagles struggled in their 72-68 overtime win against Lakewood, which finished behind Millikan in the Moore League standings and split its two head-to-head games with the Rams.  'We're taller than Lakewood is, but not nearly as quick as Lakewood is,' San Jose told Kian. 'Eisenhower is big and strong, and the thing that scares me the most is that they have some great shot blockers. But I think we may be a little quicker than they are, so we have a chance to win the game. The neat thing about high school basketball is that anything can happen.' "

The San Bernardino Sun also had a preview of the game, and rather than paraphrase it, we'll just quote the most pertinent parts (you can get the entire, unabridged original, by Sun staff writer John Murphy, at this link):

The Eisenhower High School boys basketball team is trying to become the first boys team in school history to go to the CIF-Southern Section championship game.  The Eagles (26-2) also are attempting to erase the bitter memories of last season's 66-61 semifinals defeat to Capistrano Valley in Rialto. According to veteran coach Steve Johnson, though, Ike is ``just looking forward to playing the next game.'' That game is tonight, as the Eagles take on Long Beach Millikan at 7:30 p.m. at Long Beach Wilson High School. The winner gets a trip to the CIF Division I-AA title game Saturday at The Pond in Anaheim.... Eisenhower has lost twice in the semifinals in the last five years, including last season's stunner to Capistrano Valley. "It's come up,'' said Johnson, who has spoken in the past of his team being slightly overconfident for last season's semifinals game. "We also didn't shoot very well that game. And we've talked about doing some of the little things that could help us avoid something like that again.''  Ike standout 6-foot-6 forward Cory McJimson, a transfer this season from Fontana, said last season's failure has not been a preoccupation. "It's been mentioned,'' McJimson said. "But mainly we're focusing on what we have to do. That's to run our offense well, to play good defense and to play hard.''  The Eagles will face a Millikan team that is coming off a 47-44 victory Friday night against Ayala.

A concern for Johnson is the Rams' strong front of 6-6 junior swingman Marcus Dove, 6-4 senior forward Dominic Freeman and 6-6, 240-pound junior forward Ryan Hynes. Hynes is a transfer from Paso Robles. That trio helped hold Ayala to only 17 points inside the three-point arc.  Dove, projected by most as a D-1 college player, is averaging 18.5 points, six rebounds and four assists per game. Freeman averages 13 points and 10 rebounds. Also, senior shooting guard Melvyn Nicholson scored 14 points and had four assists against Ayala and has led the Rams in scoring in five of their last six games. Millikan, coached by Kelly San Jose, is unranked in CIF D1-AA. Still, the Rams have managed to make the semifinals for the first time 1991, also the last season Millikan won 20 games.  Ike is led by 6-5 junior forward Sean Marshall (19.5 points per game), 6-6 senior forward McJimson (17.3) and 6-7 senior forward Johnny Dukes (16.5). Senior 6-1 point guard Idris Moss and senior 6-1 guard John Shields round out the starting lineup. Another key contributor is senior 6-7, 275-pound senior center Anthony Jones. Marshall has been a clutch performer all season for the Eagles and never moreso than Friday's 71-68 overtime victory against Lakewood. With his team trailing 36-29 at halftime, Marshall scored 22 of his game-high 28 points in the second half. McJimson added 21 total points, including five in overtime. Dukes chipped in with 11 points.  Johnson is looking for a more even effort tonight.  "We have to realize that we can't just walk over people,'' Johnson said of his team, which pounded Palmdale Highland 74-54 in the second round, only to struggle against Lakewood. "We didn't play a real good game on Friday. And (Millikan) is well-coached and could present some problems for us matchup-wise.'' The Eagles are No.‚1-ranked in CIF and fifth-ranked in the state by Cal-Hi Sports.   Johnson's teams have advanced to the quarterfinals for five consecutive seasons, but have been unable to make it to the big game so far.

Believe it or not, we don't have a complete roster for Eisenhower.  We've got the Millikan roster, because they submitted a CIF media sheet (evidently if Eisenhower did, the CIF-SS no longer has it), so this is the best we can do.  Still, read the preview above and you'll certainly be able to discern who has been getting it done for the Eagles....

Millikan features:

John Tempel   6'-1" Sr. G
Marcus Dove   6'-6" Jr. G
Ryan Hynes   6'-6" Jr. C
Jeff Comminer   6'-2" Jr. G
Juan Zarate   6'-2" Sr. G
Brandon Robinson   6'-1" Sr. G
Iren Anderson   5'-10" Jr. G
Melvyn Nicholson   6'-5" Sr. G
Dominic Freeman   6'-5" Sr. G
Matt Raitz   6'-4" Sr. F
Cory Tran   5'-9" Jr. G
Mark Lewis   6'-2" Jr. G

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