East County Sports

Arnold terminates Colts in SoCal semis

Helix's JAYLEN ARNOLD goes up against Carson Tuesday night during the CIF State Regional semifinal in La Mesa. / photo by Antonio McIntyre





By Ramon Scott



LA MESA – With burnt orange highlighted tips erupting out of the top of his customary headband, Helix senior JAYLEN ARNOLD is one of the first players to catch your eye on the basketball court.

Helix senior JAYLEN ARNOLD strongholds the Carson Colts Tuesday night. / photo by Antonio McIntyre

On Tuesday night, Arnold resembled a fueled-up fireball of energy, doing anything and everything for the Highlanders against the visiting Carson Colts in the CIF State Division IV Regional semifinals, leading his team to its 21st-straight victory, 56-53, over the visitors from the L.A. City Section.

And thanks to an upset win in the other half of the SoCal bracket by fifth-seeded Reedley Immanuel, of the Central Section, the second-seeded Highlanders will host their fourth-straight state playoff game in their historic gym, where they have won 15-straight games.

The 6-foot-4 Arnold, known for his work as a pass catcher and premier blocking tight end for the Scotties’ stalwart football team over the last two seasons that has enabled him to receive scholarship offers from the likes of USD, Hastings College, Adams State and Sterling College, looked more like a Division I basketball prospect, scoring 24 points, including the decisive basket with just over a minute-and-a-half remaining.

The self-annointed “Mr. Headband Man” was more like the Heatmiser to the Colts on this night.

After a thrilling start for the Highlanders, which included a three-quarter court buzzer-beater at the end of the first quarter by 6-foot-9 star MILES NORRIS for a 15-11 lead, the victory almost didn’t materialize.

Just 1:15 into the game, Norris fiercely swatted a shot that went into the hands of Arnold, who raced down the court and fed the ball to a swiftly moving DYLAN LEE for a crowd-roaring score.

Three-and-a-half minutes into the opening period, Arnold got a rebound, then followed up his own miss with a putback as the Highlanders jumped out to an 8-2 edge.

With 1:39 left in the first, Norris swatted another shot, this time into the glass, where it rebounded perfectly to Arnold, who accelerated down the court and cut behind the swiping defender for a strong finish off the backboard.

Moments later, Norris had another block, then CARSON BAKER rebounded his own miss of a jump hook and followed it back up and in for a 12-11 lead.

The Colts appeared just slightly more effective in the transition game and were seemingly always one-step ahead of the Highlanders, but Carson High really had no answer for Arnold.

Helix’s AMARI GREEN defends against Carson in the CIF State Regional semifinal on Tuesday. / photo by Antonio McIntyre

After making a floating 10-foot jumper in which he hung in the air to keep the shot away from his defender giving Helix a 17-14 lead just 30 seconds into the second quarter, Arnold continued to keep the Highlanders in the game with his heady play.

A minute-and-a-half into the second, Arnold put his passing skills to work, as he floated a pass inside to a cutting Norris for a short inside jumper.

Carson High used precision ball movement and a fast, transition attack led by 10 points from Giovanni Sanchez to surge to the lead in the second quarter. A lead in which the Highlanders would not overcome until the final two minutes of the game.

Following a deep-range miss by Lee, which grazed the rim, Arnold had little resistance coming down with an easy offensive rebound and putback to close Helix to within 23-21.

With time ticking down in the last half-minute of the first half, Helix’s AMARI GREEN drew two defenders with a drive to the basket, so he flipped the ball underneath the flailing arms of the defenders right to Arnold, who was perfectly positioned for the easy bucket, drawing contact from the out-of-position Carson player. He converted the and-1, as the score was 31-28 Colts at halftime.

Two-and-a-half minutes into the second half, Arnold led the Scotties’ transition and dished to Green just as he was undercut to the deck by a late defender. Green missed his driving attempt at the basket, but Norris was there for the follow-up jam to make it 35-32.

Helix’s DYLAN LEE flies near the basket during the Highlanders’ CIF State Regional semifinal win. / photo by Antonio McIntyre

In the third, as the Highlanders continued to work extremely hard to match to back-and-forth scoring with the Colts, Arnold made another power move, drawing contact but no foul, as he scored to pull Helix back to within 37-34 with 4:30 left in the third.

Trailing 41-40 entering the fourth, Helix finally caught the Colts after Arnold got an offensive rebound and putback after his first attempt at a tip-in failed, then on a fade-away three by Lee to tie to score at 46-all with 3:38 to play.

With 1:34 to play, Arnold used a power dribble-drive move to blow past his man and by another converging defender, to drive for a basket off the glass to give the Highlanders a 50-48 lead.

“We needed a bucket, so Amari passed it to me at the high post,” Arnold said. “I swung it, and drove and got the layup.”

Arnold finished the game with a 6-for-7 night at the foul line and Helix made 9-fo-12 free throws in the fourth.

And the Scotties did their damage in the second half mostly on the boards, thanks to Arnold and Norris.

“Whatever I can do for this team, I will do,” Arnold said. “We got the win and that’s all that matters.”


Carson High got a late score and the ball back after closing to withing 54-53 with 9.2 seconds left, but the Colts turned the ball over with 3.8 to go, throwing it away on an inbounds play.

Green and Lee both hit free throws in the final seconds to seal it. The Highlanders, who have been terrific at the line in the postseason, finished 14-of-17 from the stripe. Lee had 10 points.

With San Diego State coach Steve Fisher watching from just inside the doors of the gym’s crowded entrance, Norris was collapsed on continuously by the Colts down low.

Still, the highly-recruited junior made his impact known where Fisher seems to notice most, on the defensive end, as he finished with 10 blocked shots and 15 rebounds in addition to his seven points.


Helix (30-5), charting new heights on the hardwood, now has state playoff wins over Granada Hills Charter, West High, of Torrance, as well as, Carson.

The Scotties will now host Reedley Immanuel in the regional finals Saturday night at 6 with a trip to Sacramento for the state finals in the offing.

Helix’s JAYLEN HINSON drives to the goal during the Scotties’ win Tuesday night. / photo by Antonio McIntyre

Immanuel (23-8) rallied from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to beat top-seeded Burbank in a wild 58-57 come from behind victory in the other regional semifinal.

Immanuel’s Derrin Person, Jr., who is headed to Cal State Bakersfield, scored a basket with six seconds remaining, as he had 34 points in the semi.

Burbank controlled the entire game until early in the fourth quarter when Immanuel started its huge comeback.

Burbank led 49-39 after three quarters and extended the advantage to 12 points before allowing 15-2 run

While the 6-foot-6 Person came up big on Tuesday night for the Eagles, Nate Kendricks, a 6-foot-2 point guard who has attempted more than 200 three-pointers this season, is the team’s leading scorer at 20.8 points per game. Person averages 19.5 points and 10.2 rebounds per contest.

Immanuel finished second to Selma in the Central Sequoia League. Selma was the team that was upset by Orange Glen in the second round, 64-51.




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