There was plenty of drama on the opening night of the City Section Open Division basketball playoffs. At one point Saturday night, the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 seeds all trailed in the second half.
At halftime in Woodland Hills, with No. 3 Taft down by eight points to No. 6 Crenshaw, standout guard Kihei Clark overheard the public-address announcer and said, "El Camino is beating Fairfax?"
Maybe that helped awaken him and his Taft teammates, because the Toreadors picked up their intensity, started to rebound and began to fight back, coming away with a 68-58 overtime victory.
"Eight points is nothing," said Clark, a Virginia signee who finished with 26 points. "We knew we'd come back."
The only upset of the night turned out to be No. 5 Granada Hills knocking off No. 4 Narbonne 54-50. Onaje Higgins made a three-point basket with 23 seconds left to put the Highlanders ahead by two points. Jesse Bannout finished with 19 points.
No. 2 Fairfax, which trailed by nine points in the second half, rallied for a 64-57 win over No. 7 El Camino Real. Ethan Anderson scored 23 points. Eddy Egun had 26 points for the Conquistadores.
No. 1 Westchester defeated No. 8 Birmingham 59-47. Zellie Hudson had 20 points and Kaelen Allen 18.
Taft will play Fairfax and Westchester will take on Granada Hills in Saturday's semifinals at Roybal.
Crenshaw came close to beating the Toreadors. They opened an 11-point lead in the second half. The Cougars were outmuscling and outhustling the Toreadors. But Clark started leading like he usually does and Brandon Wilson scored all 20 of his points in the second half.
The final seconds of regulation will be remembered as a missed opportunity for Crenshaw. Dominique Winbush, who scored 21 points, was fouled on a three-point shot with 2.4 seconds left and his team down 52-50. He made the first free throw, missed the second and made the third to send the game into overtime.
Clark is the latest top point guard coached by Derrick Taylor, following in the tradition of Jordan Farmar, Spencer Dinwiddie and Larry Drew Jr.
"I knew he'd come through," Taylor said. "Farmar, Dinwiddie, Drew — he's just like them."
Perhaps Clark's most impressive moment was standing and taking a charge in the second half from Isaiah Johnson, Crenshaw's starting quarterback. Clark, 5 feet 9 and 145 pounds, didn't budge.
It was a difficult day for Crenshaw players. A female student who was a student trainer died in a car accident Saturday morning.