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O’Neal, Houston Fuel Crossroads In Second Half Comeback Win At Windward

  |   February 8, 2018  |   David Yapkowitz

Los Angeles, CA – For the third straight game, the Crossroads Roadrunners (16-8) found themselves trailing at the half. And for the third straight game, they rallied in the second half, this time against the Windward Wildcats (17-10), to pull off a 55-48 win on the road.

It was the final regular season game for the Roadrunners who finished the season on a six-game winning streak. The also finished 6-1 in Gold Coast League play with their only loss coming to league champion Sierra Canyon.

The Roadrunners found themselves down double-digits, 25-15, at halftime. The two games before that against Viewpoint and Brentwood, they also trailed at the half only to turn things around once the third quarter began.

“Honestly, I don’t know what it is. My assistant coach Thomas Scott said it best, it seems like we’re Clark Kent in the first half, then we go in the photo booth and we’re Superman,” Crossroads head coach Anthony Davis said. “But I feel like our team does a good job when our backs are against the wall, they always respond.”

On a night when the Windward crowd was already pumped up due to it being the seniors’ final regular season home game, senior guard and UCLA commit Jules Bernard often dazzled the crowd even more. He attacked the basket relentlessly and he knocked down perimeter jump shots.

The Roadrunners would make an adjustment, however, in the second half. Senior guard D.J. Houston, who has been a crucial component for the team all season long, was given the defensive assignment of slowly down Bernard. Although Bernard still was able to get some shots off in the second half, Houston made it difficult for him and he was often flustered by the defensive intensity.

“I said, ‘we can’t lose this game, there’s too much hype around this.’ I had to buckle down and play some defense and contribute to the team in some way, some form,” Houston said. “In the second half, fourth quarter, I think we came up big. I came up big, I think I grew as a player off this game.”

Houston finished with 18 points, several of which came in the fourth quarter when the Roadrunners took their biggest lead of the night at 43-34. Davis has been thrilled with the contributions that Houston has made to the team all season long.

“He’s probably the most underrated guard in Los Angeles, scoring wise and especially defensively,” Davis said. “He’s always on the best offensive player every game, he really doesn’t get enough credit for it. He really shuts those guys down, he really gave Jules [Bernard] a hard time.”

Leading the way offensively for the Roadrunners was senior forward and Arizona commit Shareef O’Neal. O’Neal was aggressive in getting to the rim and finishing, as well as creating contact and getting to the line. He finished the game with 21 points.

“I just feel like as the second half comes, it’s the Kobe mentality. Our team, we’re always kind of slow the first half,” O’Neal said. “We need to play like how we do in the fourth quarter, all game. The second half is like our stuff, we just need to work on being more consistent throughout the game.”

Along with the win, it was an emotional night of sorts for both O’Neal and Houston. It was the final regular season game in their high school careers. O’Neal actually began his high school basketball years at Windward.

“It’s heartbreaking, high school basketball changed my life. It made high school way better and it made my life way better,” O’Neal said. “Now that it’s coming to an end, I’m glad about some things I did, and others I feel like I should’ve went 100 times harder. But I’m glad about where my high school basketball career is.”

Houston echoed similar sentiments.

“It’s scary, my reminiscing on it now, I wish I could go back,” Houston said. “But you got to move on, you got to grow from this. My high school career was amazing, I’m sad this was my last regular season game, but happy that we pulled out a win.”

The Roadrunners now await their playoff fates. With the way they finished the regular season, the team is confident no matter where they end up.

“We’re looking to see where we fall in the playoff seeding,” Davis said. “We’re looking to get back to work and just getting ready to fight.”

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