Rainier Beach's nerves showed early as Long Beach Poly built a 15-point lead and held off a comeback by the Vikings.
There are days when Mike Bethea has to remind himself that his Rainier Beach roster is as inexperienced as it is talented.
That inexperience showed Monday during the Vikings’ 64-58 loss to Long Beach Poly (Calif.) in the King Holiday Hoopfest at Edmundson Pavilion.
“We had a bunch of nervous kids out there,” the Vikings’ coach said. “Fuquan (Niles) and guys like that, they’ve never been on a stage this big. But I was proud of the fact they didn’t give up. They played hard down the stretch.”
The nerves were noticeable early. While Rainier Beach (13-1), ranked No. 27 in the nation by ESPNHS, tried to settle into the moment, the 26th-ranked Jackrabbits (13-1) came out firing.
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“They’re a good team,” Long Beach Poly coach Sharrief Metoyer said of the Vikings. “They’re very athletic and Anrio Adams is a monster. They’ve got some length. I thought we played extremely well in the first half and put them on their heels, but they came right back at us in the second and played all the way to the buzzer.”
The Jackrabbits hit 7 of 12 three-point shots in the first half and led by as many as 15.
Rainier Beach rallied and trailed by nine after three quarters. Marquis Davis, who scored 19 of his game-high 24 points in the second half, was fouled shooting a three early in the fourth quarter and knocked down all three free throws to cut Long Beach Poly’s lead to six.
Davis made two more shots in the fourth quarter that cut the Vikings’ deficit to six. And Adams, who scored 23, hit a pair of free throws with 24.7 seconds remaining that made it 62-58.
“The first half killed us,” Davis said. “We didn’t go out and execute like our coaches told us to. The second half we picked it up, but by the time we picked it up, it was too late.”
Davis and Adams combined to score 30 of the Vikings’ 32 second-half points.
Roschon Prince (20 points, eight rebounds) and Jordan Bell (13 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks) led Poly.
The defeat was a good learning experience for young Vikings players like Niles and Elijah Foster, who battled through foul trouble.
“I was proud of the big guys,” Bethea said. “We’ll take this and learn from it.”