February 6, 2016. The Nike Extravaganza held at Mater Dei High School. It was the pinnacle of high school basketball with division 1 scouts and premier, showtime players. The top high school teams in the nation getting ready to play for the title of being “extravagant.” And I had the opportunity to attend.
Friday afternoon, one day before the start of the Saturday session of the tournament, I headed to Mater Dei to grab some tickets. My coach at Fountain Valley, who previously coached for Mater Dei repeatedly advised me to go early and not wait til the day before to grab a ticket because they would all be sold out. Luckily, I was able to snag reserved tickets for the second session, the evening session, of the extravaganza.
The seats were nice, about seven rows up behind the visitors’ bench. When I got to the extravaganza, it was fairly empty and quiet. There wasn’t many people there, but the competition was still fierce. Santa Margarita, one of my favorite teams to watch in OC, versus Etiwanda, a former powerhouse in the CIF-SS. Easy win for Santa Margarita due to the fundamental play of their team.
(Ethan Anderson of Fairfax) Photo ©2016 by Eric Sondheimer [CC-by-2.0]
Next up was a game that I had been anticipating for a while. With my fellow teammates and friends that came with me to the extravaganza, we waited patiently for the two teams to take the floor. Fairfax of Los Angeles, one of the most athletic and talented teams in the state, versus a fellow Sunset League team in Los Alamitos. This game was phenomenal as the teams kept battling and it was close to the very end. Eyassu Worku was the star of the Los Al, carrying the Griffins the whole way while freshman Ethan Anderson played exceptionally poised for his age for Fairfax. In the end, the depth and athleticism of Fairfax proved too much for the Griffins as they fell in a close loss.
Following the Fairfax game, my teammates and I took a break from the action and headed to McDonalds in order to grab some lunch and relax.
When we returned to the Mater Dei gymnasium, the bleachers were about twice as filled as before. De La Salle and Corona Centennial took the floor and it looked as though De La Salle was going to get blown out the gym during warmups. However, much to our surprise, De La Salle battled hard with numerous three-pointers, but fell just short of the win.
In the second half of that game, the gym became absolutely PACKED. And there was good reason as well, as the national elites from Bishop Gorman laced up to dethrone the undefeated and number one team in the nation in Chino Hills.
(Lonzo Ball of Chino Hills) Photo ©2016 by Steve Galluzo [CC-by-2.0]
The game was just what you would expect. Lots of threes, dunks, crossovers, and overall fun. The players were top-tier, ranging from the Ball brothers in Lonzo, LiAngelo, and LaMelo, to Gorman’s stars in Zach Collins and Chuck O’Bannon Jr. With their record on the line, the Huskies of Chino Hills made too many plays for Gorman to make it a game.
To round up the Extravaganza was Mater Dei, led by sophomore sensation Spencer Freedman and Oregon-commit senior MJ Cage, versus Foothills Christian of El Cajon, led by UCLA-commit TJ Leaf. This game, compared to the previous one, was extremely dull and boring, leading me to leave early.
Despite the disappointing end to the tournament, the competition and level of play was definitely worth it. Hopefully, next year’s tournament will be just as exciting and will display the same level of players and teams as Nike Extravaganza XXI.