With Zach Allmon, the Mission Prep boys basketball team looked like a formidable force in the CIF-Southern Section Division 5AA playoff picture.
That the Royals continue to win without their biggest double-double threat on the floor is a testament to the type of team they’ve tried to become all season — one not reliant upon a single star.
“We’ve had problems in the past with people trying to step up and try and take the game over,” Mission Prep sophomore forward Connor Woolpert said. “Today, everyone stepped up. It was just a team effort, and it was fun.
“When we get in this rhythm where everyone’s sharing, it turns out to be good, and we look good.”
The Royals (17-10) had three players score in double figures, and despite a second-quarter lull that saw their lead trimmed to four at the half, Mission Prep assured itself a quarterfinal home game Tuesday with a 54-45 victory over visiting St. Geneveive (15-10) of Panorama City at Cowitz Court on Friday night.
Andy Rowley had a game-high 13 points and three steals, Sam Cowitz scored 12 and Art Lane put up 11 points in the balanced-scoring effort.
Allmon, who averages 12.2 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, missed his fourth straight game with an ankle sprain and remains day-to-day, Royals coach Terrance Harris said. There’s a possibility the 6-foot-6 junior could return for Tuesday’s 7 p.m. game against St. Monica Catholic of Santa Monica after MRI results revealed less damage to the ligament in his right ankle than feared.
“He’s still not close to 100 percent,” Harris said, “but he’s not as bad as it could have been.”
Said Cowitz, a senior guard: “If we can get him back next week, I think we have a shot of going to the title game. He’s got that height, that’s for sure. He’s got a nice outside shot. It helps having him on the boards.”
Lane made up for the loss of Allmon, who sat on the bench with his right foot in a walking boot. The 6-4 senior had a game-high 11 rebounds, eight defensive, and directed traffic from the high post against St. Geneveive’s zone defense.
Lane scored six of Mission Prep’s first nine, helping the Royals build a 14-3 lead with a little more than a minute left in the first quarter.
“He’s been doing a lot of stuff,” said Woolpert, who scored six points, “rebounding and scoring, doing everything he can. I’ve been trying to get in there and rebound, and Spencer Rowley, he’s been scrapping.”
Spencer Rowley had just four points, but the senior forward grabbed seven rebounds and dished out a team-high five assists.
The Valiants were able to hang in with some timely long-range shooting. Their first four made field goals were 3-pointers, and Clint De Guzman hit three 3-pointers to tie Mark Chin for the team high with 11 points.
St. Geneveive got it going inside with eight points inside the arc in the second quarter, capped by a score in the post by Nick Goodreau, and Mission Prep led 24-20 going into the half.
The game remained close until Mike Caldwell came off the bench to hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the third quarter for Mission Prep. Woolpert scored on a reverse layup coming off a backdoor cut early in the fourth and snatched a steal before the Valiants could advance the ball into the frontcourt on the ensuing possession.
Andy Rowley then drove the lane for two, and the Royals pushed their lead to 41-31 midway through the fourth.
“That’s exactly what we’ve been working,” Harris said, “getting cutters going through against the zone. And then we came back and got a big defensive stop, and that did put them on their heels a little bit.
“We play in spurts. We played much better in the fourth quarter than we did in quarters two and three. We know if we can keep that consistency that we can be a very strong team.”