East County Sports

High-flying Highlanders stymie namesakes

Helix junior MILES NORRIS goes up for a slam on Wednesday night in the CIF State Division 4 playoffs. / photo by Antonio McIntyre





By Ramon Scott



LA MESA – It’s probably been 15 years since the Helix Highlanders have employed any type of zone defense at any time during a basketball game.

Helix coach JOHN SINGER confers with his team Wednesday night during the CIF State regional playoffs in La Mesa. / photo by Antonio McIntyre

But there were JOHN SINGER’s Highlanders suddenly in some type of matchup zone that left a hot-shooting underdog suddenly confused and in trouble keeping possession of the ball.

Visiting Granada Hills, from the tough L.A. City Section West Valley League, parlayed a streak of pinpoint shooting into an 11-10 lead midway through the first quarter.

But the Scotties’ veteran coach reached back to his old bag of tricks like he did against long-time El Camino coaching rival Ray Johnson in a tournament back in 2002.

The result was a quick onslaught that allowed Helix to take control and roll to their 19th-straight victory this season by knocking off the 15th-seeded similarly named Highlanders, 60-52.

“The decision actually came during the first quarter when the coaches said to run a zone,” Helix senior guard DYLAN LEE said. “We just decided to stop the dribble handoff and make them stay on the perimeter.”

Helix’s ISAIAH WOODEN drive to the basket during the fourth quarter. / photo by Antonio McIntyre

Singer himself seemed befuddled as to how to describe what turned out to be the switch that got the Scotties going by breaking up plays and turning in their eye-popping transition baskets.

“They hit 4-for-4 to start the game so we just wanted to change it up a little bit,” Singer said. “We just threw it out there and they were confused, so we just stayed with it.”

Helix senior JAYLEN ARNOLD seemed to be the biggest menace, as he scored seven points in the first quarter, while the Highlanders’ 5-star junior MILES NORRIS scored six points in the first.

“We knew they were a shooting team, but we had some trouble early,” Norris said. “We practice a zone, but we’ve just never used it. No matter what defense we’re in, we just have to be active.”

Arnold opened the game with a tip-in for a basket and Norris had a jam and a short field goal in the first 2:10 as Helix (28-5) led the pace.

After the Scotties clamped down, they took a 19-14 lead at the end of one and turned it into a 29-17 lead at the half.

Junior CARSON BAKER hit a medium range jumper 1:20 into the second, then Norris scored inside once again for a 10-point lead.

Norris had back-to-back dunks during a second-quarter run in which the Scots held the visitors to just three points.

In the third quarter, Lee hit one of his acrobatic off-balance bank shots as Helix to a 31-17 lead and Norris had yet another slam.

Junior JAYLEN HINSON closed out the third with a late three-pointer as the Scotties extended the lead to 41-27.

Substitute ISAIAH WOODEN once again looked sharp in his minutes of work, scoring seven points in the fourth.

Earlier in the game, Norris got caught up in another rim-hanging situation after missing a dunk similar to his failed attempt in the section championship game last Saturday which drew a technical.

Helix’s MILES NORRIS is guarded by Granada Hills on Wednesday night. / photo by Antonio McIntyre

This time, officials whistled the star for offensive interference.

Helix’s jam master is skilled around the basket and above the rim, but still learning about his own 6-foot-10 frame when he finishes around traffic at the goal.

“Everyone is so enamored with his just jumping,” Singer said. “He’s 16 years old and he missed a couple of dunks and he hangs on the rim a little bit.

“He’s figuring it all out and he’s made big strides all around so I’m not worried.”

Now Norris and his mates step on to a bigger stage when Helix hosts a Southern California Regional semifinal.

The No.2 seed Highlanders advance to face the region seventh-seed West Torrence on Saturday at 6 p.m.

The Warriors won the Southern Section Pioneer League title before winning a section title, as well.

West (23-8) is led by 6-foot-3 sophomore guard ALEX MISHAW, who scored 30 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the Southern Section 4-AA championship game.

“We haven’t lost since January, so we’re going to try and keep it rolling,” Arnold said.

Other Helix scoring: Amari Green 4.

2017 CIF State Boys Basketball Championships Division IV

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