Alex Dupre leads Birmingham to dramatic basketball playoff victory

On the opening night of the City Section and Southern Section Open Division basketball playoffs, the most influential coaching decision of the season received even more validation. That was Birmingham coach Nick Halic moving 6-foot-5 senior Alex Dupre to point guard one month ago.

On Friday night, Dupre scored 45 points to help the Patriots come back from a 21-point deficit to defeat Grant 83-70 in overtime and advance to the Feb. 17 City Section semifinals against King/Drew at El Camino College.

"That's one of the best performances I've seen," Halic said of Dupre, who made 21 of 24 free throws.

Birmingham has lost just two games since Dupre took over at point guard.

"He was moved to point guard out of necessity and has really blossomed," Halic said. "He takes care of the ball, makes good decisions and is a matchup nightmare."

The City Section has had parity this season, and it was shown in the playoff openers. No. 1-seeded Cleveland was stunned by No. 8 LACES 59-52 behind Donovan Cornelius, who scored 18 points. Cornelius' father, Trent, was a star player at Cleveland.

Chatsworth went on the road and eliminated Western League champion Westchester 64-49 behind sophomore Alijah Arenas, who scored 28 points. King/Drew defeated Palisades 77-60, with Josahn Webster scoring 25.

It will be a semifinal doubleheader at El Camino College, with Chatsworth facing LACES at 5 p.m. and King/Drew playing Birmingham at 7 p.m.

In the Southern Section, pool play in the Open Division had Sierra Canyon going on the road to defeat St. John Bosco 72-67.

The score was Sierra Canyon 69, St. John Bosco 67 with 16.9 seconds left. That’s when Kade Bonam of St. John Bosco collided with Noah Williams of Sierra Canyon.

“Bonam is a grown man,” Williams said afterward.

The officials ruled it an intentional foul on Bonam despite the objections of St. John Bosco coach Matt Dunn.

“You have to sell it,” Williams said of rolling on the court.

He made both free throws and Sierra Canyon got to keep the ball. Game over. The Trailblazers will get to face top-seeded Mission League rival Harvard-Westlake on Tuesday night in the second round of Pool A. Harvard-Westlake defeated three-time defending Open Division champion Corona Centennial 61-51.

St. Pius X-St. Matthias, competing in its first Open Division playoff game, handed Santa Ana Mater Dei one of its most crushing defeats on its home court, 76-54. Tyrone Riley scored 28 points. Mater Dei has lost its leading scorer, Brannon Martinsen, for the season after surgery for a broken leg.

Eastvale Roosevelt, the top seed in Pool B, avenged a double-overtime loss to JSerra in November with a 64-51 win over the Lions. Brayden Burries scored 17 points.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.