Above: Pasadena’s Blake Hamilton defending Muir’s Deon Nelson.
No. 2 Muir (17-1, 6-0) at No. 1 Pasadena (13-5, 6-0), 5 p.m.
#0 Deon Nelson, Guard, 5-11, 170, Sr.
#1 Michael Cockrell, Guard, 6-0, 155, Sr.
#23 Jelani Mitchell, Forward, 6-4, 165, Jr.
#14 Andre Frazier, Forward, 6-5, 175, Sr.
#25 Taturs Mayberry, Forward, 6-5, 210, Jr.
#1 Ajon Efferson, Guard, 6-0, 170, So.
#11 Perris Hicks, Guard, 6-1, 175, Jr.
#23 John Haywood, 5-10, 175, Guard, Sr.
#10 Blake Hamilton, Guard, 6-4, 180, Sr.
#15 Brandon Jolley, Forward, 6-5, 220, Jr.
The Breakdown: Nevermind the other five teams Muir and Pasadena have faced in the Pacific Leauge. You only have to look at the result against Crescenta Valley. Pasadena played CV last Friday. The Bulldogs led by eight at the half, led by as many as 28 and won by 21. Muir on Tuesday this week led CV at the half by four and won by 20. To say that these teams are very similar is an understatement. I didn’t have to wonder how great this game was going to be until this week. I saw it the second I laid eyes on Muir back in the early rounds of the La Salle/Temple City Holiday Classic. Take away the blue/gold jerseys and replace Gamal Smalley with a 6-foot-4 coach and you have Pasadena on the floor. The Mustangs proved their worth all the way to the tournament title when they faced Village Christian, a team that features three Division I recruits. Muir was sloppy near the end, clanking free-throw after free-throw. But you saw the tremendous upside, and Muir’s proven its wait and worth all the way to this point. After reaching the Division CIF-SS 5A finals last year, Muir is no stranger to playing in the big game. The Mustangs return 10 of 11 players from last year’s team that nearly knocked off PHS last year. From 1 to 5, Muir and PHS match up well. There really are no mismatches. You want speedy guards? How about Deon Nelson vs. Ejon Efferson? Nelson is the veteran of the group but don’t discount Efferson, a sophomore who has transitioned at the point with seamless effort. Nelson is a quick-handed guard who can beat you off the dribble and take it to the hoop. You want some bigger guard action? Check out the best matchup of the night between Jelani Mitchell and Blake Hamilton. Both are 6-4 guards who can play above the rim. Their height and long arms can wreak havoc when they trap on the corners and their speed is almost unparalleled. The second best matchup has to be Taturs Mayberry vs. Brandon Jolley. Mayberry’s already proven he can dominate a game after a 42-point, 15-rebound performance. He can muscle his way to the basket and he’s more agile than his 6-5, 210-pound frame leads others to believe. Jolley has the ability to dominate the post at 6-5, 220 pounds. You can’t hack him, he’s an efficient free-throw shooter who in addition clogs lanes and makes you think twice about drive-in layups. Michael Cockrell and Andre Frazier are superb behind the scenes, doing a lot of the dirty work with easy putbacks. They can also help spread the floor with deft mid-range shooting. Off the bench, Tevin Polk has starter-like talent. Brian Carrier showed a glimpse of what’s to come. The 6-foot-2 sophomore scored 12 points off the bench against Crescenta Valley. Pasadena’s Perris Hicks and John Haywood are punishers on defense, but Haywood adds a touch on offense that complements the Bulldogs. Chris Hanayan can potentially be deadly from beyond the arc when he’s on. Add Raymond Jackson (6-foot-6) to the rotation and Pasadena has a second unit that can extend leads. Pasadena’s depth might have the edge, but that’s the least of Muir’s worry early on in the game. The Mustangs can’t get rattled early on, especially playing on the road. It’s really tough making this pick. You can see both teams are just about evenly matched. I wouldn’t be surprised if Muir wins, and if that happens then Bulldog fans should show some love. Muir’s come a long way in just a few years. But at this point, I’m going with history.
The Pick: Pasadena.