The game was a closely fought battle throughout. Arizona State bound senior James Harden started the early push for Artesia. The 2007 McDonalds All-American scored on numerous drives to the hoop, and quickly amassed a 9-1 score in favor of Artesia. Duke bound senior Taylor King brought Mater Dei back into the flow of things, thanks to a back to the basket post move, and a couple long range jumpers. After the first quarter Artesia stood on top by a count of 21-18.
Artesia made a strong push to begin the second quarter behind Harden and sophomore sensation Renardo Sidney. About halfway through the second quarter, it looked like Artesia might start to pull away, but Taylor King had other plans. King rattled off 9 points in three consecutive possessions while showing off his nearly unlimited range from behind the three point line. The teams went into halftime tied at 38 thanks to Kings 17 first half points.
The teams continued to spar throughout the third quarter, and Harden, King and Sidney continued to lead the way. Twin brothers David and Travis Wear also contributed some big plays for Mater Dei in the third quarter, but neither team was able to build a lead of more than a few points.
In the fourth quarter, Artesia picked up their defensive intensity, and focused on limiting Taylor Kings touches. By the 4 minute mark, Artesia clung to a 7 point lead. Mater Dei had one final charge left, however, and they were able to cut the lead to 2 with 1:30 remaining in the game. Clutch rebounding from Renardo Sidney helped Artesia maintain their lead, as well as some important shooting from the line from Malik Storey and James Harden. It was a hard fought game throughout, but Artesia held on thanks to an all-around team effort.
Renardo Sidney, Artesia, 22 points, 14 rebounds, 3 blocks
Sidney has every tool you look for in a power forward prospect. Physically, he has grown nicely into his body, and has a long wingspan. He has a very explosive vertical leap, and runs the court like a wing at times. Sidney can play either facing up or with his back to the basket. At this point in time, hes most comfortable on the perimeter. He has the ability to slash with either hand, and he can also hit the step-back jumper from nearly anywhere on the court. With his back to the basket, Sidney has improved his footwork, though there is still room for growth in this area. Defensively, he uses his physical tools to the fullest as a weak side shot blocker.
In the sectional tournament leading up to the Mater Dei game, Sidney had been leading Artesia. In the two games leading up to the Saturday night showdown, he had 28 and 30 points. Though he produced in the Mater Dei game, Sidney also displayed some of his downfalls that have led to heavy criticism from some observers.
Right away, Sidney showed his tendency to spend too much time hanging around the perimeter. He started by attacking the hoop with a strong drive, but his next couple of possessions ended in forced jump shots. In terms of range, Sidney can knock down the 3 pointer, but seems to struggle with consistency in this area. He did bounce back strong, and took advantage of his physical advantages on the block against Arizona bound senior Alex Jacobson. From there, Sidneys perimeter game started working for him, and he hit a beautiful step back jumper off the dribble from 21 feet. In the second half, he knocked down a 3 pointer in transition, but mainly stuck to attacking the basket off the dribble. In the fourth quarter, Sidney displayed his fantastic leaping ability on many rebounds, 3 of them coming in the last 1:30 of the game.
One of the biggest concerns surrounding Sidney at this point is his reputation for fading in and out of games. He has the tendency to disappear at times, despite having stretches where he completely dominates. To reach his full potential, Renardo Sidney will have to learn to maintain his focus and spread his effort out over the full length of the game. If he can do this, and balance his game on the offensive end, he has a chance to develop into an elite prospect.
James Harden, Artesia, 19 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, 6/10 fg, Committed to Arizona State
#15 on DraftExpress High School Seniors
Harden displayed his ability to get to the hoop from the start of the game against Mater Dei. He possesses great control of his body, and finishes with great strength at the basket. He finished numerous layups in traffic after taking contact from much taller opposing players. Though he didnt display it on Saturday, Harden has developed a reputation for being a great outside shooting. He has a quick and effective stroke, releasing the ball high and with good rotation (though he lacks elevation). At this point, it also appears that Harden may have combo guard potential. His ability to see the floor led to some great looks for his teammates, and he also can break the defender down off the dribble and dish to the open man.
In crunch time, Harden stepped up his game and made key plays when they were needed most. With Mater Dei closing the gap late in the game, he took the ball aggressively to the hoop, and picked up the foul while nearly finishing the layup. He went to the free throw line and calmly made both free throws. Hardens composure with the ball late in the game was key for this win for Artesia.
Defensively, Harden seems to be very well rounded at this point. He moves his feet well, and always keeps good positioning to recover when helping out. In addition to his solid fundamentals, he has quick hands, and good anticipation skills.
Physically, Harden has limitations in some areas at this point. He lacks great speed and quickness, appearing to be an average overall athlete. This was especially apparent off the dribble, where his drives were a result of his ball handling ability rather than a great first step. Harden does have a fairly quick vertical leap, and he compensates in other areas for what he lacks physically. Off the dribble, Harden has the tendency to go left every single time. He did make a layup with his right hand on one occasion, but the rest of the game everything was going to his stronger hand.
James Harden will give Arizona State a nice boost next season. He will compliment the games of Christian Polk and Derek Glasser nicely, and they should be more competitive in the Pac 10 because of it. Harden has the upside to be a contributor in the NBA if he continues to work on his game, and it will be interesting to see how he develops after a few seasons at in Tempe.
Taylor King, Mater Dei, 31 points, 4 rebounds
#36 Scout.com, Committed to Duke
King has great polish to his game, and should contribute to Duke already as a freshman. He understands how to free himself up, and constantly moves off the ball looking for open spots. Though he doesnt get enough credit in this area, Taylor Kings mid-range game remains quite underrated. He puts the ball on the floor at this level with ease, and displayed the ability to pull up and hit mid-range shots with either hand against Artesia. He rarely gets all the way to the basket, but is deadly enough as a scorer from everywhere else on the floor to make up for it.
The biggest struggles at this point for King come on the defensive end, where he lacks the athletic ability to really be a presence. He could help himself greatly be exerting more effort in this area, and more of a focus on his positioning would also help. Coach K should benefit King greatly in this area, however. Many people who have watched King have been quick to label him as essentially being the same player he was in 7th grade, so it will be interesting to see what kind of progress he will make in college.
King will finish his high school career ranked as one of the top 5 scorers in the history of the state of California. He has all the tools to turn into a standout offensive player with a couple years at Duke, and his shooting ability will certainly get him a lot of looks from NBA teams down the road.
Travis Wear and David Wear, Mater Dei
The Wear twins are considered top 25 sophomores in the country, as both stand at around 69 and are true wing players with good athleticism. Both displayed great flashes of potential against Artesia.
The Wear twins will really get a chance to shine next year, with Taylor King out of the picture. Both can play defense and shoot the ball well at this point, and they will now have a chance to prove they can be go-to players.
Malik Story, Artesia, 13 points, Committed to USC
Story started the game cold, though he did hit a long jumper early. When he tried to attack the hoop after his jumper didnt work, he struggled to break down the defense. Story will need to work on his ball handling ability, and improve his body control to become a threat to slash to the basket. His handle remains mechanical at this point, and this will hurt him on the college level. It would also help him greatly if he could work on toning his body.
He will be a good 3 point shooting threat at USC, but at this point Malik Story needs to prove he can be an all around player. He displayed fantastic leaping ability on a windmill dunk to end the game, so on occasion he does show that the tools are there for Story to improve.
Alex Jacobson, Mater Dei, Committed to Arizona