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February 25, 2009 > Newark Memorial boys win MVAL hoops tourney

Newark Memorial boys win MVAL hoops tourney

By Gary van den Heuvel

The Newark Memorial Cougars boys basketball team continued their near decade-long dominance over the Mission Valley Athletic League with a 59-55 win over the James Logan Colts in the finals of the MVAL basketball tournament on Saturday night, Feb. 21, at Newark's home gymnasium.

Much like their thrilling win over Kennedy in the semi-final, Newark found themselves down early in the game and had to tough it out in a very physical and fast-paced second half.

Led by their newly announced MVAL All-League players, Ifeani Ezeofor, Bobby McCall and Khion Sankey, the Cougars extended their astounding winning streak (84 regular season games) against league opponents; Newark has not lost to an MVAL opponent since the 2001-2002 season.

Logan, who was coming off a commanding 55-36 semi-final victory over Mission San Jose, had two All-Leaguers in Dwight Abad and Salaimon Siddiq. The Colts also posed a more physical low-post threat to Newark than did the Kennedy Titans, who'd given Newark fits with their run-and-gun style, outplaying the Cougars for three quarters before Newark rallied to win on Friday night.

Newark trailed by six points on two occasions in the first half but outscored Logan 10-4 in the last three and a half minutes to go into the locker room tied, 23-23, at the half. Logan maintained the edge for much of the third quarter, but Sankey single-handedly kept the Cougars in the hunt with 11 third quarter points, and at the start of the fourth quarter, the game was again tied at 37-37.

The frenetic pace increased in the fourth quarter but Newark was able to jump out to a 47-42 lead which they wouldn't relinquish. Abad kept the Colts in the game with his relentless drives to the hoop and perimeter shooting (he had three 3-pointers among his game-leading 21 points), but each time in the final moments that Logan was able to score and commit desperation fouls on defense, they seemed to keep fouling the wrong guy - Newark's Isaiah Clark, who coolly drained five of his six free throws in the game's waning moments. Clark hit seven of eight free throws in the game and scored 11 total points. Ezeofor and Sankey led the Cougars with 16 points each. Siddiq scored 14 and Joshua Belich pitched in 10 points for the Colts.

The tournament win gives Newark Memorial an automatic berth in the NCS playoffs. Logan also made it to the NCS playoffs as an at-large bid and could potentially meet Newark for a rematch in the semifinals.

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