It isn’t often that a high school team loses a star player and wins games as if nothing happened.
But that’s what has occurred this summer for the Crossroads boys basketball team.
Crossroads won the Brentwood summer league with a 9-1 record, and then won the Santa Monica College Best Of The West Tournament, defeating Santa Monica High along the way and Palisades High in the championship game.
All of that without 6-foot-5 Merrick Ross, the Roadrunners’ co-MVP last season. Ross, a guard regarded as an outstanding college prospect, has transferred to a prep school in Florida following two seasons at Crossroads.
However, Coach Kevin Jackson has eight seniors and the Roadrunners have been bolstered by the return of point guard Brandon Williamson, who didn’t play in the second half of last season, and David Oranta, who had foot surgery.
The team’s leader in points and assists this summer has been 6-foot-4 Robert Allen, who suffered from the flu late last season after playing well earlier.
When the Roadrunners are at full strength their success is not surprising. Inside power is provided by 6-foot-9 center Conrad Liebowitz and 6-foot-8 forward Solomon Hiannia.
After winning 11 of their first 12 games last season Crossroads slumped to a 3-7 league record and was fortunate to be granted a CIF playoff berth. The Roadrunners made the most of the opportunity and reached the third playoff round before losing to perennial power Price by five points. Their final record was 18-10.
“We’re playing good basketball this summer,” said Jackson. “The players have bought into the system, which features defense and hard work.”
Crossroads’ only loss in the Brentwood Summer League was by one point to Windward.
With a senior-laden roster also, Windward is likely to be a strong contender in the Olympic League race next season along with Crossroads and Campbell Hall.
The CIF has new criteria for playoffs and some of the division’s powers, including Price, are likely to be shifted to a higher group.