Cleveland Suffers Lag as Crenshaw Rushes to City 4-A Title, 95-79

Times Staff Writer

Crenshaw High won its third straight City 4-A championship, its ninth in the past 16 years, Friday night at the Sports Arena, defeating Cleveland, 95-79.

The Cougars (23-2) won their 15th consecutive game by simply wearing down the Cavaliers before a crowd of 10,434.

Stephen Thompson, Crenshaw's All-American guard, led all scorers with 29 points. He earned the tournament's most valuable player award, but he had plenty of help.

Crenshaw forward Ronald Caldwell, who started the game with four consecutive misses, scored 23 points. Dion Brown and Tracey Freeman, two of the Cougars' unheralded players this season, combined for 26 points, mostly from the outside.

Freeman scored his 12 points off the bench. Brown was 7 of 7 from the field.

Crenshaw's win put an end to Cleveland's hopes of becoming the first team from the Valley to win a City 4-A title in 22 years.

The Cavaliers (16-8), who played the defending state champions close for most of the game, were led by All-American Trevor Wilson.

The 6-8 forward ended his brilliant high school career with a typical performance: 27 points and 20 rebounds.

"Trevor Wilson hadn't been to the finals in three years, and he was determined to do something since he was here," said Crenshaw Coach Willie West.

Wilson, an all-tournament selection, was given offensive support by reserve center Antoine Shofner, who had 19 points.

Damon Greer, also an all-tournament selection, and Adrian King added 10 points each for Cleveland, which shot 62%.

Crenshaw shot 60% and outrebounded the Cavaliers, 41-34. Cleveland had 26 turnovers.

Said Cleveland Coach Bob Braswell: "It wasn't their press that gave us the problems. We broke their press, and we had two-on-ones and three-on-ones and we just couldn't convert them."

Crenshaw led, 43-39, at the half as Caldwell and Thompson combined for 25 points to offset Wilson's 14 points and Shofner's 12.

Cleveland, which trailed, 21-17, after the first quarter, started the second period by scoring nine unanswered points--six by Shofner and three by Wilson.

Crenshaw came back to regain the lead behind Thompson, last season's City 4-A Player of the Year.

The 6-3 guard scored seven points in the last five minutes of the second quarter.

Cleveland had 10 turnovers in the first half, resulting in 16 Cougar points.

Cleveland played the role of a punch-drunk boxer in the third quarter.

Just about every time it appeared that Crenshaw would pull away, the Cavaliers clawed back.

Cleveland committed turnovers on three of its first four possessions of the third quarter, and Crenshaw led, 47-39.

Thompson, who scored 11 points in the period, gave the Cougars a 55-46 lead midway through the quarter on a spectacular reverse slam dunk.

The Cavaliers scored their next five times down the floor to hang close, 59-54, then committed three consecutive turnovers, which Crenshaw converted into four points.

A five-footer by Wilson put Cleveland back within five points with a minute left in the quarter.

Three more Cleveland turnovers at the end of the period resulted in five Crenshaw points, however, and the Cavaliers trailed, 70-58, after three quarters.

Wilson finished the period with 25 points.

Surprisingly, few of the Cavaliers' turnovers in the first half were due to pressure by Crenshaw's vaunted press. Most of them came on fast breaks after Cleveland had broken the press.

Cleveland made five of its first six field goals of the game, storming out to a 10-4 lead after three minutes.

The Cougars responded by scoring seven unanswered points.

Said Braswell: "Basketball is a game of streaks. We're both explosive teams. When Crenshaw began streaking, we couldn't cut their lead."

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